Well we spoke to Helen Straw HR expert and founder of The Personnel Partnership to get her expert industry tips for things to consider when you return to work after a baby.
A recent study by Santander has revealed that only 33% of women returning to work after starting a family said that the time away had not affected their career progression. And 26% of mothers have changed careers after having children to better suit their family life.
The reality is that for most people life will change dramatically after having children and your working life will have to fit in with your new priorities. But what are the things that you need to consider if you’re thinking of going back to work?
Whether you’re coming back from maternity leave or just coming back from a career break after children there are certain things like childcare, career development options or whether you’ll prefer flexible working hours to consider. There’s a lot to think about.
1. Flexible hours
The Santander study showed that a third of women asked would like companies to give mothers more flexible working hours, including the opportunity to work from home providing that their role is not fixed to a specific location. But this won’t be an option for everyone.
However, if you’re returning to your career straight from maternity leave Helen says that often you’re able to request some form of flexibility by law. You can also check whether you are eligible for this by law by visiting the NCT website.
“If a woman is coming back to work after maternity leave the main thing she will have to consider is if she wants to return to work on the same patterns she was before.
“Many new mums don’t want to be doing the same intense work as they were before so remember that as part of your maternity package you have the right to request flexible working hours if you want to change your specific hours.”
Flexibility is also something for mums to consider if they’re returning to work after a career break.
If you still want the flexibility to be able to pick your children up from school or want more time with your family then perhaps try looking for part-time work, freelance jobs or consider working from home.
2. Know what you want
This might sound pretty obvious but if you’re trying to return to the job market, knowing exactly what you want from your career will help you focus.
Helen says: “Really research what you want and see if there are things like refresher training opportunities or different qualifications you might need to stand out. Or if it’s possible, even volunteer in the area of work you want to go into.”
The next step is to make that CV look as attractive as possible. If you’re worried that the time you took out of the rat race will count against you, well Helen says that’s not technically true.
“If you’re returning to work after a career break the most important thing to be focusing on is honing in on your CV. Detail the experience that you have and make sure to include the things you will have picked up working as a mum; for instance things like time management and managing a budget are important skills.
“Some women may find it difficult but don’t be afraid to mention those skills you acquire after having a family, they are perfectly valid and can easily transfer into your career,” she says.
3. Child care options
With childcare in the UK being the some of the most expensive in the world, this can be one of the most important things to get your headaround before going back to work.
Whether you’re looking at nurseries, nannies, child minders, au pairs or family members it’s important not to be influenced by what others are doing, pick something that can truly work for you – leaving your baby with someone else is a big decision.
Helen says: “When you’re thinking about childcare, whether it’s a child-minder a nurseryor a nanny, at the end of the day it’s really personal choice.”
What Helen wants to make clear is that all of these options have their own benefits and downfalls.
“Nurseries are good because they have consistent care and are able to take children younger. If you choose nannies you can potentially have a cheaper budget as people can often nanny share with a like-minded friend.”
“There are always grandparents and friends come into the mix but if you want this option always have a back up plan if they are sick or away. Really you need to think about plan A and plan B and how all options affect that,” she says.
4. Career development
If you go back to work after children the chances are that your career options are going to be a little different, which is why discussing career development with your employer is crucial.
Before you go back to work be aware of your options. A quarter of women asked said there should be mentoring or coaching to help mumsreturning to work catch up again. Thankfully Helen reveals that there are initiatives in place that do just that.
“As part of the maternity legislation mums that are on maternity leave have career development options. Things like keeping in touch days or Keep days in HR terms are there to keep you up to date in a simple and beneficial way.
“These are 10 days that are paid on top of your statutory maternity pay, which are used as a way for mums to stay in touch with their company and workload. Within these sessions you can do anything form training, simply getting up to date or use them as a gradual ease back into work.” she says.
You should also request to have regular catch ups with your manager to make sure that you are happy with your return. Having that point of contact is essential.
5. Emotionally ready
Now that we’ve got all the practicalities out of the way it’s time to look at you. In the same way that you need to feel ready to leave your child you also need to have the confidence to go back to work.
The transition doesn’t come easily to all of us so Helen says take your time.
“One of the most important things is that you need to feel as confident as you were before. If you come back from maternity leave it can seem like “Oh gosh, I feel like I’m starting again.”
“You need to feel like you can go back to work and do a good job. Remember to have some self-confidence and have some self- belief, take each day as it comes and it will be OK,” she says.