Returning from maternity leave – can you change your work hours?

What can make your return to work from maternity leave easier? And can you request flexible working hours?

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It’s now recognised that adjusting when you return to work from maternity leave can be difficult. ‘Keeping in touch’ days give the option of working up to 10 days during your maternity leave.

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Life coach Patricia Carswell recommends keeping in regular contact with work while you’re on maternity leave.

“It avoids misunderstandings and reminds everyone that you still care about your job. This doesn’t mean constant visits, or that you have to tell your boss straight away what your plans are – it’s more a question of keeping the lines of communication open. How you go about it depends on the working environment; usually the odd email is enough,” says Patricia.

What rights do I have to change my working hours once I’m a mum?

If you have a child under 16 years (or under 18 if your child’s disabled), you have the right to ask to work flexibly.

If you’ve worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks and are responsible for your child on a day-to-day basis, your employer must seriously consider any request to work flexible hours, but can still refuse if he or she can offer good business reasons for so doing.

There is a standard procedure to follow. Visit the Department For Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform website, and also look at the flexible working guidelines on Directgov.

What if my employer refuses my request?

You have the right to take your case to an employment tribunal (make sure you put everything in writing and keep a record of emails and meetings). You need to make your complaint within three months of refusal.

It’s always best to try to sort things out with your employer before going to a tribunal, but if this becomes your only option, contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission on 0845 604 6610.

Mum’s story

“I can’t afford to stay on maternity leave”

“Ava was unplanned, so we hadn’t budgeted for a baby. We can’t survive on Statutory Maternity Pay, so I have to go back to work. We can’t afford childcare and none of Ava’s grandparents are able to help out, so we’ve both negotiated flexible hours. I’m going to do 7am to 1pm and my partner, Leo, a fitness instructor, will be doing 2pm to 10pm.”

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Judith, 22, mum to Ava, 8 weeks old

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