Are you on maternity leave and wondering about your career? This article contains plenty of practical guidance on keeping in touch with your employer, getting back into work mode and easing yourself back into work.
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Those last few days before you break up for maternity or paternity leave can be a bit of whirlwind. You’re frantically trying to tie up all of your loose ends while also preparing for one of the biggest changes if your life to happen. There’s a lot to think about and do.
Having children not just dramatically changes your life, it can also make you see things, such as your career, differently. Naturally, taking time out from anything enables you to view it in a more objective light.
This can lead to some parents using their time away from work to review their career goals, work-life balance and what they want their future to look like. In some instances, some people decide they need a career change or to update their CV at the very least.
But just because you’re away from work being a parent, doesn’t mean you can’t still think about your career or what your return to work involves.
Did you know you're allowed to work for up to 10 days while you're on maternity leave without it affecting when your leave ends or your maternity leave payments? These are your Keeping In Touch (KIT) days, which are optional. You and your employer must agree to them, the type of work you'll do and your wage before you break up.
You could use your KIT days to attend training days, workshops, meetings or conferences. In fact, you can do any type of work on a KIT day. You don't have to work a full day either. Some people use them towards the end of their maternity leave to help them gradually ease themselves back into work.
Your employer has a legal right to reasonable contact with you while you're on maternity leave. This means they may get in touch with you by email, letter or phone or have a meeting with you.
From an employee perspective, it’s a good way to be kept updated on things, such as any changes that will affect you, training, work, social events and job vacancies. Saying ‘yes’ to receiving the company newsletter or updates on projects you were working will help you still feel a part of things too. (Note: agree the amount of reasonable contact and methods before your maternity leave starts).
Some new mums find that being on maternity leave gives them that extra bit of breathing space to pursue learning opportunities they were too busy to think about when they were working full-time.
You’ll find details of courses at your local college or university. Online learning is an option too. We also offer a range of personal and professional development courses for past and present ICAEW members, ACA student and their families that can help you develop your soft skills.
If you're reading this while on maternity leave and are thinking about returning to work, there are some important questions you need to ask yourself first:
There are several types of flexible working you may want to consider. They include:
All UK employees have the right to request flexible working if they've worked for their current employer for at least 26 weeks on a continuous basis.
Having a baby can make you view your career differently, and you may feel it's time for a new challenge or change of direction. Ask yourself what you want from a new career, and whether you have the necessary skills to do it. If you don't, retraining may be your best option.
For some mums, not going back to work at all may be the best option, especially if you are thinking of setting up your own business.
According to a survey by Workingmums.co.uk, 58% of mums have considered starting their own business. Meanwhile, figures from the Office for National Statistics report more than 800,000 women are self-employed and working part-time, giving them greater flexibility to fit work around their family life.
Use your KIT days, don’t let them go to waste! Make the most of them by:
Pre-booking what you do on your KIT days will make sure they run smoothly. Schedule in regular breaks between meetings in case something runs on or simply because you know people will grab you in the kitchen.
There’s nothing worse than scrabbling around trying to make your computer work the morning you arrive because you haven't logged on for a while. Check in with IT before your KIT days so they know to expect you.
If you need to see or speak to clients on your KIT day, remind them you are on maternity leave and are easing yourself in gently. Ask them to take you through what has been happening and don't feel afraid to ask questions.
Likewise, if you are meeting with clients, make sure you have caught up with your colleagues first or spoken to your maternity cover for the latest key updates.
We hope you’ve found this advice useful. If you need any further guidance or support with keeping in touch, getting back into the swing of work or easing yourself back into it after being on maternity leave, contact our friendly team of advisors.
We support past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW), ACA students, ICAEW staff members, and the family and carers of members and students.
You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer page.
If you need financial support, we carry out a means test where we consider income, expenditure, capital and assets.
*Please note none of our other services are means-tested.