Huge thanks to Holly from PitterPatterPither for contributing her experience:
I’ve just finished negotiating with my boss about my return to work after my maternity leave, and alongside that some flexibility in my working days and hours. It wasn’t easy, and to be honest I didn’t get completely what I wanted from the outset, but with transparent and regular dialogue, we got there in the end. I guess the key thing I have learnt from all of this is, as it says on the tin, ‘a negotiation’. A little backwards and forwards will no doubt be necessary. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get what you want first time, be confident in your initial request and be honest with yourself about how far you are willing to push it.
Here are my top seven tips on how best to negotiate a flexible return to work after taking an extended period of leave to look after your child.
1. Make a plan in advance: I know you want to enjoy every moment of your maternity, paternity or adoption leave, but I promise you getting a plan in place early will allow you to relax into being a parent. Going back to work is stressful enough without having a decision like this hanging over you.
2. Write it all down: Whether you end up speaking to your boss in person or not, whatever you do make sure you write it all down. This is a very important decision that will no doubt effect your future employment contract, best to get a written record of everything, even conversations over email that may seem irrelevant to the negotiations. This is especially important in case things go pear shaped.
3. Think about what skills you offer to your workplace: Begin by clearly identifying the key skills and experience that make you valuable to your employer. If you’ve been away from the workplace for some time, identify what new skills you may have acquired during your leave. Pull out your recent appraisal forms and highlight your strengths, as well as what you have brought to the business during your time there. It’s time to showcase why you’re so great and how having you back on your terms is significantly better than not having you back at all.
4. Think about the impact on others, not just on you and your family: Yes I know you are negotiating ‘your’ flexible working hours, but spend some time considering the potential impact of your working arrangement on your work colleagues and your boss. If you can show your boss you are doing what’s right for the business too, you will have a much easier conversation.
5. Be open and honest: There is no point in saying what you think they want you to say and then later regretting it. Be honest and explain to your boss what you think you need for a good work/ life balance. Likewise if you feel your employer is being unfair tell them. This is no time to be a wall-flower.
6. Don’t just expect they will just give you what you ask for: They don’t call it negotiating for nothing! Make it clear that whilst you have a preferred option, you’re open to negotiation. Find a suitable middle ground and don’t be worried if there is a lot of back and forth, this is a big decision.
7. If all fails, why not try something new: If I have learnt anything whilst being on maternity leave, it is that this time is a time to think. It is also a time to reevaluate. Remember you’re under no obligation to stick with the organisation you left (obviously be aware of the rules around leaving and having to pay back your maternity pay). If your current role doesn’t end up working, perhaps it’s time to take the plunge and move on.
Finally, some good resources that might be of assistance:
If you need to speak to a HR or legal expert about what your rights are, or you are worried about how your work is treating you, then join the #Workitout forum. It’s a free space to chat to professionals and get advice and guidance. It is set up by Pregnant then Screwed and Mother Pukka and is relevant to everyone looking to work flexibly (men, women, those with children and those witout).
The NCT website has some useful tips on flexible working.
CareeringIntoMotherhood on Facebook helps mums find new flexible roles if you feel the time is right to move on, or if you are returning to work after a career break.
Holly Pither is a new mum to baby Amelia and similarly new to the blogging world. She started her blog when she first went off on maternity leave. Unlike many of her friends, Holly was very fearful of going off on maternity leave, scared about losing her identity and panicked about just being mum. She writes all about the trials and tribulations of maternity leave and finds it very therapeutic. In her day job Holly is a PR associate director at an agency in Oxford, England. She loves her job and she loves her baby. It is her belief that all parents can love both their kids and their career and, with the right flexibility, neither should suffer.
Follow Holly’s blog at PitterPatterPither and on Twitter and Instagram