How Long Can I Have for Maternity Leave?

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5 Questions to Ask Yourself

Deciding how long you should have for Maternity Leave is up there with some of the most important decisions you will make in your life. Balancing up between staying with your family and making sure there is a decent income to support them is tough!

This article is perfect for all Mums to Be. It doesn’t matter whether this is baby number one or ten. You still have to decide how long you are going to have off.

What is Maternity Leave, and Why Does it Matter?

Maternity Leave is the legal period you are allowed to be away from work. In the UK, you are allowed up to 52 weeks. There is no qualifying period with your employer, even if you have only been working with them for a day – you still qualify. The key point is that you shouldn’t confuse Maternity Leave with Maternity Pay – they are not the same thing.

Remember, Maternity Leave doesn’t mean Maternity Pay.

Sharlene Smith

Is Maternity Leave Compulsory?

There is a minimum requirement to take at least two weeks of Maternity Leave. Factory Workers however need to take at least four weeks. After that, it’s up to you to decide whether you have the remainder of the calendar year off, or you decide to take a shorter leave.

How to Decide How Long to Take 

In my personal experience, there are five key questions that I asked myself when I was deciding how long to have for maternity leave.

Don’t underestimate how hard this decision will be. Your heart will be saying one thing, and your head will be saying something completely different. The scenario that worked for your friend, might not work for you. There is a good chance that your situations are completely different and therefore the right answer is different for both of you.

1. What is you ideal Maternity Leave?

If you could paint a picture of Maternity Leave, what would it look like?

During my first Maternity Leave my Sister was getting married – so I had planned that myself and the baby would head to Australia for six weeks. This was a key factor in my planning.

You don’t need to be as dramatic as that. My second time was far less exciting – taking three kids to the other side of the World is a slightly bigger challenge!

Instead, I had one goal – and that was to go to at least one baby group with them. So we chose baby sign language classes. It was a brilliant activity – I got to use my brain, I only paid once (no matter how many kids I took), and we all learned something new. It was the only thing we signed up to and it was the only time that I forced myself out of the house.

How Long Can I Have for Maternity Leave?

2. What do you need to do to make it happen?

There is no point in saying that your ideal Maternity Leave is to take the baby to live in Hawaii for a year if you can’t influence the outcome.

Instead, focus on the elements of that picture perfect Maternity Leave that you can control.

I always say to my readers that you cannot change your income on Maternity Leave BUT it is fixed and stable – you should know exactly what you are going to receive each month and when you are going to receive it. Unless you are a miracle worker, you aren’t going to convince your boss to pay you more!

On the flip side, you can control what that money is spent on. After your essential bills and expenses are paid, the rest is entirely controllable. Remember that Maternity Pay is just for a few months – what can you cut back on just for this year so that you can have a more comfortable Maternity Leave?

3. What Advice Would You Give to Your Friend?

If your best friend was pregnant, and she couldn’t decide how long to have for Maternity Leave, what would you tell her?

What are the 5 things you would tell her to think about when she was making her decision?

Sometimes taking a step back and looking at things from a different perspective is all you need.

4. What are you worried about?

If you have toiled with the idea of how long to have for maternity leave for a while, chances are there is something niggling away at the back of your mind.

There are three things which worried me when I was in your position:

  1. Would I have enough money for Maternity Leave?
  2. What would a long Maternity Leave do for my career?
  3. What would a short Maternity Leave do for my family?

Unfortunately there is no magic answer to any of these questions – each family’s situation is different and unique. What worked for me, won’t work for you.

How Long Can I Have for Maternity Leave?

5. What else do you need to know so that you can decide?

Only you can make this decision. After you have thought about all of these questions, what other information do you need?

Write down a plan of action so that you can make a decision and start to plan the Maternity Leave of your dreams.

If money is your main concern, some of my other articles will help you come up with a budget. You will then know what you need to save and make a plan on how you are going to do that.

If your career is your main concern, have some conversations with others who have gone before you. What have they done to get around this issue? Maybe their careers have not been affected at all. I can tell you from personal experience that your company has no loyalty to you! Your family most certainly does.

If missing out on family life is your main concern, talk to others who have recently become parents. What have they done to make sure they can have the best of both worlds? Maybe you could use some Annual Leave to be part time for a while to practice what being part time feels like.

In summary, this isn’t going to be an easy decision. It’s only one that you can make for your family.

Join my FREE Facebook Group Money Matters for the Mum to Be – Plan & Prepare for Maternity Leave for more tips on financial planning and preparing for maternity leave.

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