Managing your return to work

Newborn | | Clare Seal


Even as you’re making preparations to meet your new arrival, it’s likely that your return to work is lurking somewhere at the back of your mind. You might know how much leave you’d like to take, when you’d like to get back to work, and whether you’ll be returning to your job on a part- or full time basis. The logistics of arranging childcare around your work schedule, covering childcare costs and making important decisions about how to split your time can be daunting, but our tips below will help you to make a plan, and navigate your return to work with minimal stress.

Keeping in touch

For the first few weeks and months of life with a newborn, you’re likely to be completely absorbed in your new life with an extra family member - but after a while, you may feel that you’d like to reconnect with your work. Everyone is different, and there’s no right or wrong time for your career to start occupying your thoughts again. For some, it’s a financial necessity; for others, it’s about carving out some time to feel like yourself again.

During your maternity leave, if agreed with your employer, you can use up to ten ‘keeping in touch’ days at your place of work, which are paid work days that could allow you to get back in the loop, flex your work brain a little and also boost your income.

Making flexible working work for you

As long as you have been working for your employer for at least 26 weeks, including maternity leave, you are entitled to request flexible working, which could include part-time working, staggered or condensed working, or working from home. All of these adjustments could make managing life as a new parent easier, both logistically and financially, so it’s important to think about what kind of plan would work for your family.

It could help to put together a proposal for how you would envisage your new work life to be structured, to take to your employer. You may need to negotiate and compromise in order to find something that works for both parties.

Adapting your budget to life after leave

Adapting your budget to reduced income on maternity leave is one thing, but re-adjusting it to your new, more permanent situation after leave is important, too. You may need to take into account a new income based on working fewer hours, new childcare costs, higher or lower commuting costs etc. You may not be able to map this out perfectly, and might need to adjust it further in future, but it’s good to set your expectations and have a plan ready.

Help with affording childcare costs

Childcare costs are one of the biggest considerations when it comes to the financial side of starting or expanding your family, so it’s vital that you arm yourself with all of the information that you need about your entitlement to help with affordability.

Big changes are planned for childcare funding, which will hopefully provide some reprieve for families struggling to afford enough care, but for the time being, you can check your eligibility for help on the website. You might be able to use tax-free childcare, saving you 20% on your bill or be entitled to extra universal credit to help with your childcare costs. You might also be entitled to funded hours at a childcare setting from the term after your child turns two or three years old.

One-off return-to-work costs

It’s not always easy to save money on maternity leave, but there may be a few one-off costs to consider when returning to work, and it’s great if you can have a plan or save a fund for these ahead of time to reduce pressure when you return.

For childcare, you might need to pay a deposit or administration costs, as well as paying for each month ahead of time, meaning that you’ll need to foot the bill for the first month of childcare before receiving your first month’s back-to-work salary. You might also need to consider any additional equipment that you’ll need for transport arrangements - extra pushchairs or car seats might be a necessity. Picking up a bundle of preloved ‘nursery clothes’ is a great tip for little ones who are likely to get mucky, and could reduce their clothing costs considerably.

Your child isn’t the only one who might need a new wardrobe! Many new mums report needing to buy a few new workwear items, either in a different size to their pre-maternity collection, or in order to accommodate breastfeeding or pumping more easily. Feeling confident and polished can make that first week back at work feel less overwhelming, so don’t dismiss this as an unnecessary or indulgent expense.

Returning to work after parental leave can be an emotionally and financially challenging time, put creating a plan ahead of time can help with some of the uncertainty.