returning to work after maternity: your rights.

Going back to work after having a baby can feel like a tall order: concerns regarding the security of your job, the safety of your child and the stability of your own sense of confidence are all entirely legitimate.

But you’ll always be in a strong position if you familiarise yourself with your entitlements right from the beginning of the whole process.

Your basic maternity leave rights are as follows:

  • All employees are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave, which means they’re also then entitled to return to work at any point after the compulsory two weeks of leave has elapsed
  • Apart from pay, your access to the contractual terms and conditions of your employment should all continue during your maternity leave
  • You have the right to request and negotiate flexible hours
  • You have the right to be offered an appropriate alternative role or vacancy if you are made redundant while pregnant
  • Unfair treatment, unfair dismissal and discrimination because of pregnancy, childbirth and maternity leave are all illegal.

communication is key.

It’s a good idea to be organised and communicative. Let your employer know that you are returning to work early if that’s the case, or that you’d like to change the date of your return.

sharing is caring.

The transition of returning to your professional position can be made more manageable if the burden of work and care is shared. Your partner or the father of your child could be entitled to around 26 weeks of Additional Paternity Leave if your child was due before or on April 4th 2015.

This right considerably bulks out the two weeks’ Statutory Paternity Leave to which they should also be entitled. Helpfully (if it works better to leave your partner at home with your child while you return to your job) the Additional Paternity Leave can be taken 20 weeks after the child is born, so long as it finishes before the child’s first birthday.

be flexible.

If you have been with your employer and working continuously for over 26 weeks before you became pregnant, you can request a flexible working schedule – you’re legally entitled to a written response detailing your employer’s consideration and conclusion. Flexible working includes handy entitlements like:

  • Job sharing
  • Staggered hours
  • Working from home
  • Working part time

Shared Parental Leave and Pay can give you a great deal of valuable flexibility in the first year of your child’s life, too. You’re also entitled to take your four weeks of parental leave, which can be stacked onto the end of your Statutory Maternal leave if that’s useful, or taken at another time – whatever suits you best.

know your rights.

It’s your right to breastfeed at work if you wish to, so it’s important to engage that entitlement and formally submit written notification to your employer if you’re planning to breastfeed when you return to the office. If that’s your plan, your employer is required to carry out a risk assessment. They must go to all reasonable lengths to sort any risks or dangers posed to mother or baby, including the provision of suitable rest facilities. And although it’s not legally mandated, it’s a good idea for you to encourage your employers to provide discreet, safe and healthy places for you to express and store milk if you would benefit from such amenities.

the annual leave low-down.

Holiday entitlement builds up while you’re on maternity leave as it would do if you were at work. If you don’t use it to extend your maternity leave, you might well be able to take it at another time when you’re back at work. Talk to your boss about how it works at your company.

always fight discrimination.

As with all workplace disputes, attempts to resolve things informally and in person are the best place to start. This will ensure that misunderstandings or minor gripes aren’t blown out of proportion. But if your issue is serious and needs to be formally addressed, have a look at your employer’s grievance procedure and follow the protocol for making a complaint. If you feel you’re being treated unfairly, check the Equality Act to see if it amounts to prejudice or discrimination. The Advisory, Conciliation and Abritration Service (Acas) can also help with useful information and tips on how to deal with conflicts – little suggestions like explaining to your colleague that you’ll respond to difficult questions by the close of business (rather than straight away) can mean more adept and satisfying ways to handle the situation.

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