Returning to work after a long period of leave can be tough, even more so when you’re a new mother. Whether you can slot straight back into working life after maternity leave, or you feel as if the whole process is rather daunting, knowing more about the transition and your rights can make you feel much more at ease upon your return.
You’ve been on maternity leave for 26 weeks or less
If you’ve been away on maternity leave for 26 weeks or fewer, you are entitled to return to the exact same job upon your return. Your pay and the conditions in which you work in, should be the same.
If an employer decides you can’t return to the same role, it is classed as unfair dismissal and maternity discrimination. Steps to solve unfair dismissal or maternity discrimination can also be sought, if not from your employer, then from your nearest citizens advice service.
You’ve been on maternity leave for more than 26 weeks
If you’ve been away on maternity leave for 27 weeks or more, and an employer does not let you return to work after maternity leave or they fail to offer you another job without strong reasoning behind the change, again, this is classed as unfair dismissal and maternity discrimination.
Employers are not allowed to offer you a different role if the following applies:
- Your previous role is still one which exists
- Your job would still exist had you not gone on maternity leave
- The new role is something you are not capable of doing
- The new offer has worse conditions or worse pay than your previous role with the company.
If an employee feels as if they have been discriminated against, it is within their rights to bring their claim to an employment tribunal. However, if discussions are held between both employer and employee, this isn’t always necessary.
Supporting employees throughout
Support and frequent discussions between employer and employee should be readily available and of frequent occurrence for the employee planning on taking maternity leave to make the arrival back to their role run as smooth as possible. In order to manage the situation, it is crucial the employer plans considering all parties affected from the leave and the affect on the business.
Specific laws and considerations are in place regarding the return to work and maternity leave as a whole, which the employee should familiarise themselves with. Regular communication is essential to make the mothers feel at ease about their return.
Breastfeeding in the workplace
One of the most daunting aspects women face when returning to work is their rights as a breastfeeding mother. Health and Safety Laws state that and employer must provide somewhere suitable for a breastfeeding employee to rest. However, the law does not say an employer must provide somewhere for them to breastfeed.
It is advised to provide a private, hygienic and safe place for employees to breastfeed, and express breast milk and then store it somewhere to cool.
Programs to assist when returning to work
To make the return run smoothly and make the employee feel at ease there are a plethora of programmes which assist new mothers with their return; providing advice, help and support.
Pregnant Then Screwed – Pregnant Then Screwed have joined forced with the CIPD, supporting over 150 parents in the Yorkshire and Humber area to get back into work. It is a programme designed to support parents returning after a career break; a free programme which comes with coaching and mentoring, done either face to face or online.
Career Mums – A social enterprise providing support to parents returning to work, hoping to make a smooth transition following a career break.
Successful Mums – Successful Mums engage in professional coaching and assist new mums in returning to work, changing career or starting their own business while working around their children. They provide assistance in returning to the same role, seeking new roles, CV refreshment and how to focus on growing your confidence upon your arrival to the working world.
What does the industry think?
A female garden designer who wishes to stay anonymous stated: “The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for at least one year. There are also British laws to protect women wishing to pump at work and lots of advice directed at businesses that says to facilitate feeding around working hours.
“We need more women in the industry – none of them should have to choose between keeping her work and being a mother”
“Where we have had women go on maternity or with young children, the flexibility our roles provide has made them great roles to go back into. As a CM, you can go out to sites during the day when they are at nursery or school, pick up your kids at 3pm and do a couple of hours of desk-based work once they are in bed.
We have also partnered with a coaching company to provide return-to-work coaching for women coming back to work from maternity leave. It can be scary, especially if you have been away for a full year, and we find this useful in rebuilding confidence for women coming back into the workplace after a period away. We also offer it for women who are joining us who have been away from work for a number of years raising children and people coming back from long periods of sickness.”