Return to Work options after a baby

Going to work after you have had a baby can be an overwhelming thought. Long hours, unsuitable work patterns, commutes and the cost of childcare can make it all seem a waste of time. Here are your options for working after your maternity leave ends.

Going to work after you have had a baby can be an overwhelming thought.  Long hours, unsuitable work patterns, commutes and the cost of childcare can make it all seem a waste of time.  Here are your options for working after your maternity leave ends.

1. Work Full Time

There is no shame in doing this. I have always worked full time after I had my babies.

Working full time after you have had a baby is 100% achievable.  The organisational skills you rapidly develop as a parent set you up nicely to get you and your family out of the door each morning. Recently the CEO of the insurance company, Confused.com said that “Mums don’t take any nonsense at work, there’s no time”.  That is so true!

The key is to develop a routine that works for you.  The best advice I had when I returned to work was to prioritise getting yourself ready first. That meant I had to get up earlier than the rest of the family, but it helped set me up for the rest of the day.

If you can have your childcare provider give your baby breakfast, this helps the routine even more.

With some careful preparation the night before, you can all aim to get out the door on time and stress-free.

2. Work Part Time

Many Mums decide to return to work on a part-time basis. That is where you reduce your hours and pay to help fit around childcare.

There can be advantages and disadvantages to this.

While I have not worked part-time myself, I have worked with a lot of Mums who have.  The reduction in hours to reduce childcare costs is the most significant advantage cited.  You can still keep a hand in your career while trying to keep the childcare costs lower.

The main disadvantage I can see is that many employers will be happy to pay you for a part-time job but not happy to reduce your workload.  That is the main reason I have worked full time since I have been a Mum. That is a trap that is best avoided!

If I did have the choice to work part time I would most definitely work Monday to Thursday. There is nothing better than a long weekend!

3. Not Returning to Work

You may decide that returning to work after your baby is not an option for you.  High childcare costs, long hours, and inflexible shifts could be just some of the reasons for your decisions.  If you decide to do this, make sure there are no clauses in your terms and conditions preventing this. 

You might find that you need to return to work for a minimum period to avoid having to repay your maternity pay.

4. Phasing your Return to Work

With some careful planning of your Keeping in Touch (KIT) Days, using up your Annual Leave and Public Holidays you can stagger your return to work (provided your employer agrees).

When I was on maternity leave with my twins, I needed to return to work part-time (because I needed the money), but I wasn’t ready to return full time.  I used KIT days to work two days per week for five weeks.  I then officially ended my maternity leave early and used annual leave to be part-time for another two months.  That was a good strategy for me because I earned income but not paying for full-time childcare.

Unpaid parental leave is another option if you don’t want to return to work at the end of maternity leave (but want to return to your job eventually).  You are entitled to up to four weeks per child per year unpaid.  That has to be taken in chunks of weeks (based on your work pattern).  For example, if you work three days per week, you would need to have three days of unpaid leave at a time.

As you can see you have more than one option when it comes to returning to work after having a baby. Weigh up all of your options and chose what best works for you and your family. Remember that expensive childcare is not forever!

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