Preparing to leave work before your baby arrives can feel exciting and terrifying simultaneously. It is something that can feel huge but the key is understanding what support is available to you, what you want out of it and how you’re going to get it.
What am I entitled to?
First of all, you need to know your rights. In a nutshell: (for mums)
- Maternity leave is 52 weeks in the UK, of which you are paid (either with statutory maternity pay, maternity allowance or in some combination by your company) for 39 weeks.
- You need to notify your employer by the end of your 25th week of pregnancy.
- You’re entitled to paid reasonable time off for antenatal care.
- You have the right to return to the original job or suitable alternative.
There have been lots of changes around shared parental leave, particularly for dads who can now share parental leave. It’s a bit complicated to explain in a short blog and so I would advise you look at the following sites to get the most up to date and relevant information, as well as talking to your employer:
Preparing to leave work before your baby arrives
Creating a plan
Once you know where you stand you can create a plan – although this may change. One of the things I found useful with my mentor was to consider what I wanted to achieve before I left on maternity leave. To do this she asked me:
What do you want to feel like when you are walking out the door on your last day?
I said I wanted to feel proud of what I had achieved in the time I had had. My mentor asked me to imagine that moment and then think about how I had gone about achieving all the things I wanted to do, which I duly did.
One of the things that are easy to forget about when planning your leave is what your strengths are. Whilst you might not give it a second thought when you are looking after your child(ren) it will be useful to reflect on when you come to return to work.
Assess your skills and strengths
There are a couple of tools that are useful for assessing your skills/strengths. The Wheel of Life in relation to what needs to be done and how you are going to prioritise it; running a personal SWOT analysis in terms of what you want to achieve in the time you have (for me it was 6 months); a life or career timeline of highs and lows you have experienced and the behaviours you exhibited at the time and then thinking about how you can apply them in the present. Here is a nice example
Obviously I would recommend that you talk these through with a mentor/coach to get most value but they can be done through self-reflection. By working through these tools and thoughts you can create a plan of how you are going to approach your projects, time, work-life balance and well-being before you go.
Do you have any other tips that might help others?