Tips on what to do before maternity leave
If you’ve got a baby on the way you may be thinking about your options for flexible work. Here are some pointers to help you find the flexible work that will fit with your family, whatever stage you are at.
Star by talking to a range of mums and find out how they combine work and family. I thought going back to work 4 days a week would leave me plenty of time: I was wrong. I felt I didn’t have enough time with my daughter and couldn’t fit in all my work either. Other mums’ experiences will give you a range of views and you can work out if your plans are realistic.
Look at your budget
Work out an ‘essentials’ budget, to see whether you could afford to give up work. You may not plan to do this, but could feel different in 6 months time. Remember that you won’t spend as much money on fares, expensive lunches out and work clothes. Look at other things that may change: you might go out less often once you have a new baby, but equally, babysitters can add to the cost of the evening when you do get a break. Think about the cost of childcare: ask about childcare vouchers to keep the costs down if you return to work. If you are getting maternity pay from your company, check what amount you would have to repay if you decided not to return.
Check your rights
You have the right to ask for flexible work if you have a child under 6, or a child under 18 with special needs. These rights will be extended to all children under 16 in April 2009. Your boss has to consider your request and can’t refuse outright. She has to base a refusal on one of the following grounds:
- Burden of additional costs
- Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demands
- Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
- Detrimental impact on quality
- Detrimental impact on performance
- Insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work
- Planned structural changes
Making a change?
Once you are armed with the facts, decide whether you want to make a change. You should notify your employer 8 weeks before you want to return to work, and should allow plenty of time for negotiations if you want to return part time. If you decide not to return, tell your boss as soon as possible too.
What else might you do?
If you decide not to return to your current job, there are lots of other flexible options. Visit www.familyfriendlyworking.co.uk for ideas and resources for home working, self employment, franchises and direct selling.