Returning to Work Rights

When you return to work after having a baby, you have the right to go back to the same job on the same terms and conditions as before you went on maternity leave. But with these rights come responsibilities, such as giving your employer plenty of notice if you plan to go back early or want to ask for flexible working arrangements.

Deadlines for telling your employer

      • You must give your employer eight weeks’ notice if you want to return to work earlier or later than your agreed date.
      • Be aware that it will typically take around 14 weeks’ from your request for flexible working to implementing new arrangements, assuming your employer agrees.

Your rights when you return to work after maternity leave

Did you know?

Parental leave isn’t the same as your right to take unpaid time off to cope with an emergency, such as your child falling ill, which you can take regardless of how long you've been with your employer.

It’s easy to assume that everything’s going to be back to normal when you return to work after maternity leave. But six months or a year is a long time, and there could have been big changes at work – not to mention the massive changes in your own life. So, it’s important to know where you stand.

Same job, same terms and conditions

In general you have the right to return to the same job after your maternity leave on the same terms and conditions. However, sometimes it’s just not practical to have exactly the same job, in which case you have the right to be offered a similar job on terms and conditions at least as good. If your role has become redundant you should be offered a suitable alternative vacancy. If there isn't one, you may be entitled to redundancy pay.


Did you know?

Parental leave isn’t the same as your right to take unpaid time off to cope with an emergency, such as your child falling ill, which you can take regardless of how long you've been with your employer.

Pay and conditions

You have the right to receive any pay rises or improvements in terms and conditions for your job that took place while you were on leave.

Holidays

Your holiday entitlement builds up while you’re on maternity leave in the same way as if you’d been at work. So if you haven’t added it all to your leave, you often have the right to take what’s left. But check with your employer.

Flexible working

Examples of flexible working include part-time working, a change in hours or even job-sharing. But to request it, you need to have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks (including maternity leave).

Ask for flexible working to improve your work-life balance. But bear in mind,you only have the right to ask – not the right to have it. Employers can reasonably decline your application where there is a legitimate business reason.

Parental leave

If you’ve completed one year’s service with your employer you have the right to take up to 13 weeks’ unpaid leave up to your child’s fifth birthday (or up to 18 weeks for a disabled child up to their 18th birthday). The leave does not have to be taken in one continuous stretch but must be taken in week blocks (unless your child has a disability).

Find out more about parental leave on the Gov.uk website

Keeping in touch

Your employer is entitled to make reasonable contact with you during your maternity leave, perhaps to tell you about changes at the workplace, opportunities for promotion or job vacancies.

You can also work up to ten days during your maternity leave without losing maternity pay or benefits, or ending your leave. These are called ‘keeping in touch’ days and may only be worked if both you and your employer agree.

What to do if you think your employer isn’t being fair

Talk to them first – it’s possible they just don’t know the rules. If this doesn't work, you may need to make a complaint using your employer’s grievance procedure. Then, if you’re still not happy, contact your trade union if you have one or speak to a specialist at Acas or the Labour Relations Agency.

Information taken from The Money Advice Service