5 Ways you can take back your career after maternity leave

Knowledge is power, ladies.

Maternity rights
(Image credit: Caiaimage/REX)

Knowledge is power, ladies.

‘Women are likely to feel mixed emotions when returning to work after maternity leave,' says Paul Jenkins, founder and CEO of the UK's only recruitment site to specialise in maternity cover, maternitycover.com. 'In some cases, they’ll find their jobs have changed slightly. In other cases, their jobs may be completely different to the ones they left.

'The best way to deal with this period of emotional and psychological adjustment is to plan and prepare in advance. Know your rights and think strategically. It’s normal to lack confidence at the beginning, but important to know that it can return just as quickly. It’s up to you.'

With that in mind, here are 5 ways you can get back in the game after maternity leave:

1. Preparation and planning. Returning to work is both exciting and nerve-racking. You’re back in a familiar environment, but everything feels different. Make that transition easier by thinking ahead. Create a back to work plan with your employer. This should include a handover period that allows you time to adjust and address potential concerns. The plan can be adjusted, depending on how well you settle back in.

2. Stay close to colleagues. Despite having your hands full with a new baby, it really pays to maintain good relationships with colleagues whilst on maternity leave. They are more likely to welcome you back and help with any problems you encounter during those early weeks/months. Don’t forget that this is a period of adjustment for them, as well as you.

3. Discuss flexible working. Flexible working refers to any work pattern that has been adapted to fit your needs. Done correctly, it can have a huge impact on how well a woman responds to returning to work after maternity leave. It is recommended that you submit a request for flexible working at least four months before your return date by sending a formal letter. Be as detailed as you can about how you would like it handled. Employers have a statutory duty to consider the request and must arrange a meeting within 28 days. A decision – with a justified reason - must be made 14 days after this meeting. Remember that any returning mother has a right to ask for flexible working.

4. Be confident on your first day. You may feel nervous and perhaps a little out of your depth, but try not to show it. Ask your employer or line manager to provide you with vital office information, such as computer passwords, schedules, planned meetings – ahead of your start date so you appear clued-up and in control.

5. Don’t fall into the baby talk trap. Every mother is bound to miss her baby during those early days and weeks at work, but try not to make a huge issue out of it. You want colleagues to see that you’re enjoying being back and are 100 per cent committed to your job. Be strict with yourself. The less you dwell on negative feelings, the less they will affect you.

Visit maternitycover.com. Looking for more career inspo? It's not too late to book tickets for Marie Claire's @ Work Live, in association with Cointreau and Next. A one-day event on 23 April 2016, featuring advice, tips and inspiration from incredible speakers.