Returning to work after having children is a big step. There’s a lot to think about, so it’s normal to feel a bit anxious. The first few days back at work after six months or a year on leave can be challenging as you get used to working life again and spend time away from your child.
There could have been big changes at work – as well as the massive changes in your own life. So it’s important to know where you stand.
Keeping in touch
Your employer is entitled to make reasonable contact with you during your leave period. You can also work up to 10 days during this period without losing parental leave pay or benefits, or ending the leave. Any such time in the office is called a “keeping in touch” day, and may only be worked if both you and your employer agree.
It’s important to stay in touch because plans can change on both sides. If you decide you want to change your agreed date of return – whether it means you’ll be coming back earlier or later – you must give your employer at least eight weeks’ notice.
If you decide while on parental leave that you do not want to go back to the same job for whatever reason, you need to inform your employer in accordance with the terms of your contract.
In general, you have the right to return to the same job after your parental leave on the same terms and conditions. You also have the right to receive any pay rises or improvements in terms and conditions for your job that took place while you were on leave. However, where this is not possible, you have the right to be offered a similar job with equivalent terms and conditions.
If your role has been made redundant, then you should either be offered an alternative role or else you may be entitled to redundancy pay.
Flexible working after parental leave
Employment law changed in June 2014 to allow all employees to make a formal request to work flexibly, provided they have been with the company for at least 26 weeks. Employees can apply for any reason, even personal preference, but this can of course include parental or other caring responsibilities.
You can request a phased return for the first few weeks or months after coming back from leave. This could mean reducing your hours, working from home or using your holiday allowance to work shorter weeks. Whatever you decide, make sure the terms and time frames are clearly defined with your manager before you return.
If you’ve completed a full year with your company, you have the right to take unpaid parental leave. The current entitlement is 18 weeks up to the child's 18th birthday. If you plan on taking unpaid leave, make sure you discuss it with your manager and go through the correct processes for your company.
Set objectives early on
Once you’re back at work, you should make a clear plan with your line manager and reassert your commitment to the role.
Have a meeting with your manager in your first week back and set out some goals to achieve within the next six months. Use this as a chance to show you’re ready to dive back into work.