Returning to Work After Childbirth

If you’ve taken maternity leave then you will have left one job in order to find more difficult work at home, and actually returning to work can feel like something of a break. If you enjoy your work then you might want to get back to the office to continue progressing your career, and at the same time you might just have no choice but to return to work if you need the finance. Over one third of mothers now return to work after maternity leave so you are not alone and there is a lot of support and precedence out there to make life easier.

That said you are likely going to still find it hard coming back to the world of work after you’ve taken a good period off. Meanwhile you will possibly find the legalities of the process complicated and confusing and need some guidance on what to expect and how to get treated correctly. Here we will look at the process of returning to work after childbirth and hopefully this will make the transition as smooth as possible and help you to manage the change.

Your Rights

First of all you need to know your rights. When you left to have your child you will have taken maternity leave, but there are two different kinds of maternity leave which fall into the following categories:

OML: OML is ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’ and here employees are entitled to the terms and conditions that they would usually get at work except for those relating to remuneration – wages and salary. This means that things like car allowances and bonuses will still likely be paid. OML is usually 26 weeks.

AML: This is ‘Additional Maternity Leave’ in which the mother is entitled to limited terms which would mean that they require the usual period of notice for termination of their contract and that they would still have the right to return to work – but there is no entitlement to other bonuses. AML is another 26 weeks, meaning that the employee can take up to one year of leave.

All employees are entitled to OML but are required to give notice. AML varies between companies, but if the employee is entitled, then they will generally be accepted to accept. You must however give notice of your return to work before you return – and as long as you have given notice either end and have not gone beyond your allocated maternity leave then you have the right to return to exactly the same job that you have had previously on the same salary. Make sure to discuss the whole process with your employer however, as you will likely find that if you open the channels of communication and are open with them, then they will be more likely to be flexible and to help your financially etc.


Returning to work then is a matter of giving notice and knowing your rights, but the actual act of coming back can be quite jarring after 26 weeks or a year of looking after a baby full time. You will likely miss spending time with the baby, and you might be behind and out of practice at work. To minimize this problem, try to ‘ease’ your way back in and practice leaving your baby for longer periods of time as you build up to the date of your return. Likewise you can try doing dummy runs to the office at the times of your work, and it’s important to start trying to get back into a normal routine and body clock as this is likely to be somewhat upset as a result of being up all hours of the night. Some parents choose to breastfeed their children when they return from work and this can be a good way to maintain that close bond with the baby even though you are away working.

Ask your boss to go easy on you for the first couple of weeks, and make sure to read up and catch up on anything that might have changed in the industry – be sure you are familiar with any new technology, any new rules and any developments etc by doing a little extra reading at home. You might also be able to talk to your boss about working from home some days of the week depending on your job and this can help again to ease that transition back into the world of work. Generally speaking your colleagues will be pleased to see you after this time and happy to help you get back into the swing of things. You may even be able to alter your hours and look for flexi-time which might make your work easier – don’t be shy to speak to your employer if you have a good relationship and see what your options are.

Changing Jobs

Of course there’s a chance that your boss won’t be flexible and you’ll find that your work is too much on top of raising a child. If this is the case, then you can overcome the problem by changing jobs into a line of work that is more flexible and this might mean working somewhere that does have flexi-time or that does allow you to work from home. You might alternatively be more suited now to part time work or to do a job share. Realize that you do have other options and that you don’t necessarily have to stay in your current job just because you’ve recently returned from maternity leave. Some larger companies even have a creche at the office!

Preparing the Baby

You need to prepare the baby too for your departure and this means leaving them longer and longer periods of time with the carer who will be looking after them. It is also a good idea to help your baby to adjust to the routine of waking and going to sleep at the times you will be, so try to inflict this on them a few weeks before you begin work. You should also take some items that your baby is familiar with that they can play with at the creche and this will provide them with an ‘anchor’ that will make them feel more comfortable and reassured.


Sometimes it can feel like you’ve got a million things to do – being a parent is a full time job when you get home and now you’ll be taking and fetching them from their daycare too as well as feeding them and putting them to sleep at night and in the morning. Make sure that you discuss with your partner how you are going to share the workload and make sure it is even and fair. Likewise look into getting some additional help such as a cleaner to keep the house looking tidy. This will give you more time to spend with your child and your partner when you get home. Likewise try to remove any unnecessary commitments from your life and to stop doing anything you don’t need or want to do – you now have a very legitimate excuse.

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