Navigating Maternity Leave and Returning to Work: Tips for Company Secretaries and Governance Professionals

It’s now been 6 months since I returned to work after having a year off on maternity leave (and went from having a docile baby to a boisterous toddler) – time flies! Becoming a parent is a monumental life event, and navigating paternity/maternity leave and returning to work can present unique challenges for Company Secretaries and Governance professionals.

The focus of this article is maternity leave and returning to work as a mother, drawing on my personal experience, but it is encouraging to see more employers offering enhanced paternity leave and even more encouraging seeing fathers taking advantage of those policies.

Balancing career aspirations with the demands of motherhood requires careful planning and support – it takes a village! Here are some helpful tips to ease the transition:

  1. Know Your Rights: In the UK, employed mothers are entitled to maternity leave of up to 52 weeks. During this time, you may be eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance. Many employers offer enhanced maternity pay packages, which could alleviate money-worries during your time off. You might want to find out a prospective employer’s maternity policy in advance, if you’re planning on starting a family in the near future, and The Core Partnership can help you get all the information you need. A sneak peek at the Governance Market Survey 2024 suggests that around 20% of Company Secretaries and Governance professionals receive enhanced maternity/paternity pay.
  2. Stay Connected: While on maternity leave, stay connected with your workplace. Keep abreast of any important developments or changes in your absence. You can agree with your employer to work for up to 10 ‘Keeping in Touch’ (KIT) days during your maternity leave, which can help you feel more connected to your professional identity and ease the transition back into the workplace. KIT days are paid – the added cash can be handy particularly toward the end of your maternity leave – but it’s advisable to confirm the rate of pay with your employer in advance.
  3. Plan Ahead: Before going on maternity leave, discuss your plans for returning to work with your employer. Consider factors such as flexible working arrangements, childcare options, and any adjustments you may need to accommodate your new role as a working mother. Having a clear plan in place can alleviate stress and uncertainty when it’s time to return to work. NB From 6th April 2024, any employee has the statutory right to make a flexible working request (up to two a year) from day 1 of employment, which is good news for working families.
  4. Prepare for Childcare: Research childcare options well in advance of your return to work (from experience; some nurseries are fully-booked up to a year in advance!). Whether you opt for a nursery, childminder, or family member to look after your child, ensure you feel comfortable and confident in your choice. Visit potential childcare providers, ask for recommendations, and consider practicalities such as location and cost.
  5. Ease Back In: Returning to work after maternity leave can be overwhelming, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Consider easing back into your role gradually, perhaps starting with reduced hours or a phased return. This can help you adjust to being back in the workplace, while also giving you time to readjust to your new routine as a working mother. I used my accrued annual leave to return part-time for the first 6 months, which has been a great way to make the transition and have some extra time with my son, without cutting my pay.
  6. Seek Support: Don’t hesitate to reach out for support from your employer, colleagues, friends, and family members. Whether you need advice on managing your workload, reassurance about your parenting choices, or simply someone to listen, having a support network can make all the difference during this transitional period. NCT ante-natal classes was amazing for meeting other parents in a similar phase and build a great support network.
  7. Prioritise Self-Care: Remember to prioritise self-care as you navigate the challenges of balancing work and motherhood. Take time for yourself to recharge and relax, whether it’s through exercise, hobbies, or simply enjoying moments of calm. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be better equipped to juggle the demands of professional and personal life. On a positive note, coming back to work after caring for a baby/toddler 24/7 may seem like a break… Enjoy the peace and quiet on the commute too!

Returning to work after maternity leave can be a daunting prospect, but hopefully you’ll find these tips on making the transition useful! The UK government and society have still a long way to go in making working families’ and mothers’ lives easier, but at least the new funded childcare hours coming into force later this year is a step in the right direction.

If you’re looking to get back into work following maternity/paternity/adoption leave, considering your career options before starting a family or looking to hire interim support to cover parental leave, please get in touch. Myself or a member of the team at Core would be happy to help! Email or call 020 3589 0333 for a confidential discussion.