Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Article excerpt

Work out ways to make your departure and subsequent re-entry as seamless as possible.

Q: I'm expecting a baby in four months' time. I'm excited but also anxious about how best to handle my maternity leave and my return to work. I was promoted six months ago and am only just settling in, and I don't want to find that I've been sidelined in my absence. Also, I'd like to work a four-day week when I return. How can I best manage this?

A: Now that more and more women who have reached relatively senior positions in their organisations are embarking on having children, managing maternity leave has become a hot topic, both for prospective mothers like you and for employers. There's little doubt that most organisations want to be fair to their pregnant employees, but coping with the loss of a resource for several months and being flexible on re-entry terms for returning mothers can be a real headache for organisations, especially small ones.

This is not to say that it's wrong for you to seek a change in your working conditions to more child-friendly terms while maintaining your status. But you'll need to start thinking through the options and their consequences as soon as possible and initiating discussions with your boss.

Start by establishing your statutory rights - easily done at www.direct.gov.uk/en/Parents/Workingparents/index.htm. The good news for you is that changes in legislation have tipped the balance in favour of mother and child. If you decided to take the maximum maternity leave of one year, plus the four weeks of parental leave you are allowed in the first five years of the child's life, and then topped that up with the annual leave accruing to you during your absence, you could be away from your job for 14 months. Attractive as that may sound, a lot can happen to a business in that time, not to mention how you yourself might have changed - even your views on the desirability of having a high-powered job. Parenthood tends to change our priorities.

You also need to compare the legal provisions with your organisation's maternity policy. If any female colleagues have been on maternity leave in recent years, talk to them. Perhaps one of them could act as your mentor when you return to work and help you to find a balance between work and home. …

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