With three months to go until I’m due back at work. It’s time to pull my head up from the sand and sort my life out. 

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty darn nervous about going back to work. I can’t remember where I put the car keys, let alone how to do my job. I used to leave the house at 6am and not get home till 7pm, often doing at least one trip abroad in the week – how on earth am I supposed to do those kind of hrs and be a good mum to Edie? I can’t leave her little face in nursery for that long – for one thing I can’t afford it. What do I do? Do I go back to work and not go for that promotion that I wanted pre baby? Do I go freelance? Eurgh it’s a minefield. 

Anna lves, runs the pregnant and screwed hotline. She’s a HR specialist so she knows a few things about your rights to flexible working and returning to work post baba. 

Anna has been my saviour over the last week when I’ve been stressing out. I hope her insight helps you all too.

So Anna, what are the top 3 questions you receive on the pregnant and screwed hotline?

I get lots of calls each week, and although each mums circumstances are different they are around the same questions. 

Where is the best place to start with flexible working? I would always advise you speak to your manager informally first. Ideally use a keeping in touch day and go in and have a face to face chat, you never know what their answer will be and it might just be a yes that’s fine. Then your manager can contact HR to let them know and a new or amended contract should be issued. If you don’t feel you can have a chat with your manager or you have tried without any luck then I would submit a formal flexible working application. Your employer will usually have one in a policy or on the intranet or you can easily find one online. 

What do I put in a flexible working application? The form will cover points such as types of flexible working, eg change of working pattern, job share, change in days or hours of work. Then it will ask dates changes will be effective from, reasons for the changes and the impact of those changes. I would advise that instead of putting in the negative impacts (often as the form suggests) and put in the positive impacts, use the benefits of flexible working as a starting point.

My flexible working application has been declined what do I do next? I would always advise if there is an option to appeal then use it. Legally the employer doesn’t have to give an appeal but it is best practice to do so and often there is a meeting to discuss further options of flexible working. I would ask for a trial period (of at least 6 months) if you haven’t already at this stage. Even if you appeal and it is still rejected at least you tried.

I also often get asked, what do employers need to do when legally considering a flexible working application?

As an employer there are 3 legal points they can be in breach of if they do not:

  • Give one of the 8 legal reasons for rejection to an employee
  • Take longer than 3 months for the whole process to be completed (from start to finish)
  • Give any reason for rejecting the application that isn’t factually correct

What are your top 5 tips for mums returning to work after mat leave?   

Try and not feel guilty. I always like to say that guilt is a wasted emotion, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel it, but I try and not let it take control. Remind yourself of the reasons why you are returning to work and that you have chosen the best childcare for your family

Don’t push yourself too hard remember you have had a baby and been away from work for some time. Give yourself time to get readjusted back into the world of work. You also need to prepare yourself mentally to be away from your little one, it is a big change, so take time to get back into it, and if you are finding it difficult then talk about it.

Be clear about what you want, there are so many different types of flexible working, make sure you look at all the options and go for something that works for you and your family. Don’t request something you think might not work as you can only make a request every 12 months. I would advise you have 3 different patterns and save one back in case you need to appeal. For example, 1st preference is to work 3 days a week, 2nd is to work 4 days and week and if they can’t be agreed then I would go with a trail of 6 months.

Try and enjoy it, especially the hot drinks and uninterrupted loo breaks! So, you have got there, you had a baby, spent time at home raising them and now you are back to work (hopefully working flexibly) now is time for some you time, and that includes at work and take a lunch break, you deserve it.

Show you can make it work but also take some time for yourself. I often speak to women who say I have had my flexible working request approved now it is time to prove I can make it work. That is great but don’t push yourself too hard. You don’t want to end up taking on too much and find yourself working full time and being paid part time. Keep work at work and when you are off don’t get into a habit of picking up every call and email.

Right then, so flexible working seems like a very sensible solution for me. What shall I say to my work to persuade them to let me do it?

When speaking to employers it’s best to make them aware of the benefits of flexible working so they can see how it can work for both of you. I would always advise you also speak to others you know who work flexibly to see how they make it work, ideally also speak to others at your work. 

The benefits are: 

  • Increases employee motivation
  • Better work life balance
  • Greater job satisfaction
  • Attracts and retains talent
  • Reduces office costs/stress
  • Boosts productivity

Anna is speaking alongside physios, PTs, nutritionists, meditation experts and clinicians @ Being Mum Fest October 12th – 13th, London. Being Mum Fest is the UK’s only health and wellness festival for those trying to conceive, mums to be and new mums. www.beingfest.com