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Returning to work after maternity leave

returning to work after maternity leave

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Many mothers consider returning to work after maternity leave for financial reasons. There are certain rights that employers must adhere to when you are returning to work following maternity leave. If you understand exactly what you are entitled to, it might make the transition to a working parent easier.

Statutory Maternity Leave

There are two types of maternity leave and your rights when returning may differ depending on how long you take. Ordinary Maternity Leave is the initial 26 weeks. If you return to work immediately after this period, you can go back to exactly the same position you held prior to having a baby. You will have identical terms and conditions as you had before.

In most instances, the same will apply if you take Additional Maternity Leave, which is a further 26 weeks. However, there will be some cases where it’s not possible to have the same job, for example if it doesn’t exist anymore. If this happens, your employer must provide you with an alternative position, which has the terms and conditions you would have been entitled to had you not been on leave.

Notifying your employer

If you intend on using all your 52 weeks, then you don’t have to provide notice that you’re returning. However, it would be polite to do so and to contact them during your leave to keep up to date with the business.

If you intend on coming back sooner than this, for example after Ordinary Maternity Leave, you have to provide notice. This needs to be a minimum of eight weeks. You must tell your employer that you’re returning before the 52 weeks and that you’re changing your return date.

For mothers who don’t want to return to work, the normal procedures for giving notice apply.

returning to work after maternity leave

Right to flexible working

Sometimes mothers will want to return to work, but require a different working pattern. Anyone can request flexible working, but this is a statutory right for all parents with children under 17 (or under 18 if you have a disabled child).

Flexible working can take a number of different forms and it’s important to inform your employer of exactly which hours you want to work. This could include reducing your hours, working flexi-time, doing fewer days but the same hours, staggering your hours or working from home on some days.

Your employer must look into your application and they can only say no if there is a genuine business case. The process can take around 14 weeks, so you need to make your request as soon as possible if you want it to take affect when you return. If flexible working reduces the number of hours you work, your contract, including pay and holidays, would be altered.


For mothers who want to continue breastfeeding when you return, you need to inform your employer in writing before you go back. They must conduct a risk assessment and provide you with appropriate facilities. This includes somewhere to express and a storage space for the milk.

Parental leave

Any parent with a child under 5, or a disabled child under 18, can take a maximum of 18 weeks parental leave. You can take a maximum of four weeks when your Statutory Maternity Leave comes to an end, without it impacting on your rights to return to the same position. If you take over four weeks, you may be provided with an alternative role if it’s not practical to have the same job.



One Response to “Returning to work after maternity leave”

  1. Sarah

    I’m returning to work this week and I’m dreading it. I have no problem leaving my baby at all but my work haven’t been compassionate at all. Not agreeing to my original request of work hour nor are making me feel welcome in coming back to be part of the team. I’m dreading it. The managers are difficult at the best if times now I know with me doing less hours they are already making things hard. What are my rights ? What can I say so I am treated fairly ?


About Catherine Stern

About Catherine Stern

Catherine Stern is a freelance writer with a background in marketing and PR. She currently writes web content on a range of subjects, from finance and business to travel and home improvements. As a working single mum of two young boys she understands the pressures that today’s working parents face and the topics they want to read about.

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