Our in-house experts of advisors and coaches have collated the most frequently asked questions that they get asked by working mums and dads. If you have a question that you would like to see answered on this page, please email us.
In advance of the meeting you can prepare by:
- Be informed: know important dates such as when your expected week of childbirth is and, having spoken to your GP or midwife, when you’ll most likely need to start your maternity leave
- Anticipate any concerns your manager may have and work with them. Is this the first time they will manage a member of their team going on maternity leave? How can you help prepare them with any information they may need or answers to questions they may have? If you’ve got thoughts for example on how your role can be covered, share them.
- Have an idea of your career aspirations, and know your achievements- this will help in reinforcing your value to the organisation and boost your confidence!Begin to think about how you might want to blend your parent and work responsibilities and be prepared to discuss any ways of agile working in the future.
- Read up on the organisational policies and practices which can usually be found in a staff handbook or on your company intranet
You are legally required to tell your employer you’re pregnant at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week the baby is due – which is approximately when you’re 6 months pregnant.
However, there are advantages of informing your employer sooner including:
- more time for you and your employer to prepare and manage your transition to maternity leave
- your employers specific duty of care towards you as a pregnant employee starts from the moment you tell them
The earliest you might tell your employer is usually after 3 months when the risk of miscarriage has reduced.
You’ll also need to let them know in writing if you wish to take maternity leave or claim statutory maternity pay.
Yes, you’re entitled to take up to two ante-natal appointments during work hours as unpaid time off. Some organisations may allow this time off with pay so check your company policies or speak to your employer to be sure.
All female employees are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave which is split into two parts; the first 26 weeks are Ordinary Maternity Leave and the remaining 26 weeks are Additional Maternity Leave. You don’t have to take 52 weeks but the minimum you must take is 2 weeks following the birth of your child.
Maternity leave can usually start no earlier than 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. It can start immediately, the day after you have given birth if your baby is early, or it will start automatically if you are absent from work because of pregnancy related illness in the 4 weeks before the week your baby is due.
If you qualify for adoption leave, 1 partner can take up to 52 weeks leave and this is made up of 26 weeks of Ordinary Adoption Leave and 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave. The other person could qualify for paternity leave.
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) was introduced in 2014 and the idea behind it is to give parents more flexibility in how they care for their baby. It is available for working parents who are about to have or adopt a baby and must be taken in the 12 months following birth or adoption.
Mothers must legally take at least two weeks maternity leave following the birth, but the remaining 50 weeks of maternity leave can then be shared between parents. Fathers are entitled to take up to 2 weeks’ paternity leave in addition to SPL.
There are various ways of sharing the time, with either one parent off work or perhaps both at the same time. In terms of what you get paid, pay will be at the statutory amount unless your employer offers an enhancement -check your company policies for more information or speak to your employer.
There are a few things you can consider in advance of making a flexible working request and before discussing any changes with your manager:
Do I qualify?
Flexible working is open to all employees – not just parents or carers.You have to have been working for your company for 26 weeks or more before you can make a request for flexible working.
Me and my home life:
1) What working hours and pattern suits you best? Do you need to work from home?Do you need to cut back your daily hours or the number of days that you work? When do you need the flexible working to start?
2) Flexible working requests are a permanent change to your contract unless you and your employer agree to a temporary change.
3) How will flexible working enable you to provide the appropriate care for your child/ren and what will the impact be on you and your family if your request is not accepted?
Me and my company:
1) How will your company benefit from the change?
2) You know your job best! So, how can you do the job in the hours you’re proposing and what changes might need to be made?
3) How can you and the company manage any changes, including servicing clients? How can you make it work?
4) Is there someone you could speak to who is working flexibly already? How are they making it work and how did they manage the change with their team and colleagues.
Finally, it may seem obvious, but your request must be in writing, clearly dated and it must state that it is a statutory request for flexible working. Also, you must include dates of any previous requests, whether granted or not.
Your company can take up to 3 months to consider your request, so aim to make your written request in plenty of time to allow for your employer to consider all the points you’ve made and for them to arrange any changes within the work-place that are necessary to support the change in your working pattern.
Loss of confidence is something we hear a lot from mums, and returning dads. It’s not surprising. You’ve been immersed in a new and different world totally focused on your child. You’ve also discovered new things about yourself, such as what’ it’s like to be a parent, how you and your partner share this new responsibility or how you take it on on your own, how others react to you as a parent as opposed to the status you may have experienced through work. These new feelings and reactions will have shaped you as a person and taught you new things about yourself.
It’s no wonder that returning to work can feel daunting, even if it is tinged with a sense of excitement to be back in a familiar role, environment and with adults! Whether you have taken 6 months off or a year, work will have moved on. What was once familiar can feel strange. Processes and structures may have changed leaving you to learn new systems or build new relationships. This transition process is quite normal. To bring you back up to speed is there any training you could go on? Can you find a mentor or colleague you can turn to when you have any questions or need something explained? What can you do to accept that this period of transition happens and be easier on yourself?
Reconnecting with the old you can take time. There may be some things you have forgotten, but they will become familiar again. What once you found easy can now appear scary, that’s normal. Your perceptions of yourself will have shifted as you experienced a new chapter in your life and the past and new ‘you’ will come together, giving you back the confidence and belief you feel you’ve lost.
Imagine that you are talking to your old self. What would they remind you built your confidence before? What were you known and respected for? What did you want to be known for? What did you really enjoy doing? How can you tap back into these thoughts and feelings to rebuild your confidence and help you shape what you want to be known for now?
Your career as a working parent is a journey that runs in parallel with your family’s journey. There will be times when you have the opportunity and energy to focus more on your needs and how you can progress within your career. Alternatively there are times when because of increased home needs it might be easier to coast for a bit. Ultimately the choice is yours.
It can be easy to fall back into previous patterns from your career such as believing that you need to continue to be ambitious even if your heart isn’t totally convinced that this is what you want at this point in your life. If you think you ‘should’ explore what belief you have around this, where has it come from? Is it still relevant or is it now a limiting belief that is making you feel unsettled. Once you have identified the belief or thought behind it is there a way you can alter it, e.g. ‘ambition is healthy but it’s not my priority right now’?
None of us want to let our colleagues or clients down, but what evidence do you have that you are letting others down or is this a perception you have created for yourself based on the extra time and focus you had before having a family? Be accepting that the pull on your time, energy and focus has changed. What was once important may not be that high on your list anymore as it has been replaced by other more important needs and demands, that fit your values and life goals more. Ask yourself ‘what do I want from work now?’ balanced against ‘what do I want from my life now?’. Where is the balance and what needs to give for me to take the ‘should’ pressure off myself? Remember if you say ‘yes’ to something, it goes without saying that you are saying ’no’ to something else. Time in a day hasn’t expanded since you have been away!