You’ve told your manager and work mates that you’re pregnant and now you’re on a countdown to maternity leave. Ah, maternity leave….that special time where you think you’ll have time on your hands to go on afternoon strolls, have daytime naps and catch-up on your favourite box sets. As we all know the reality is completely different. Maternity leave starts, baby arrives, and you spend the next months in a blur of sleep deprivation, nappies, babysick and worry. Before you know what’s hit you it’s time to return to work and you’ve made no plans about how you’re actually going to manage that.
To help you out Mumager have come up with a checklist of things to do before maternity leave starts:
- Understand your entitlements to maternity leave
Make sure you have a copy of your company’s maternity policy, parental leave policy and flexible working policy (if they have one). Ask for a letter stating how much leave you are entitled to and the date on which you must inform your employer that you’re either returning to work or extending your leave. Put those dates in your calendar and set a reminder on your phone
- Understand your entitlements to maternity pay & work out your finances
If your company provides maternity pay find out exactly how this is calculated. Statutory maternity benefit is a taxable benefit so if your company is ‘topping up’ your maternity benefit you may find you have less net pay than previously. Work out how much money you’ll have and budget this across the maximum number of months you expect to be on leave. Some women get caught out by having less money than they anticipated whilst others find they are better off as they’re not paying travel costs
- Check your healthcare cover
Have a look at your healthcare policy if you have one to check what maternity benefits you are entitled to and whether baby will be covered from birth. Find out who you need to inform and get any paperwork prepared in advance. See what extras may come with your policy, some insurers are even offering a cleaning service to new mums!
- Find out who your HR contact is
If your company have an HR department, make sure you know who to contact whilst you’re on maternity leave if needed. Ideally this person will be able to answer any questions you have around policies and the implementation of these
- Organise your hand-over and exit
Find out from your line manager who will be managing your work while you’re on leave. Plan an effective handover so that there is no need for anyone to contact you whilst you’re out. Problems at work often arise in the early stages of someone’s leave and the temptation for most mums is to say ‘just call me if there’s a problem’. You won’t want anyone calling you if you’ve had no sleep and a 4 day old newborn to contend with
- Speak to colleagues about their experiences
Talking to people who have already been there and done that can help you get prepared for your own maternity leave. Ask them questions such as:
- How much time did you take off and how did you structure your leave?
- What arrangements did you make to have your responsibilities covered while you were gone?
- How did you transition back to work afterward?
- Were you able to arrange any kind of flexible schedule after the baby arrived?
- Is there anything you wish you had done differently or had known about ahead of time?
- Have a review meeting with your line manager
Schedule a meeting with your line manager before you leave. At the meeting agree how you’ll be kept informed of any major changes that could impact you. If an annual performance review or bonus would normally be scheduled during the time you’re on leave ask them how this will be handled.
- Find someone who can keep you in the loop with the ‘other’ stuff
Ideally you’ll agree with your line manager about how to stay informed of any major changes. However we all know that there’s a lot more to work than formal announcements. If you want to stay ahead of who’s dating who or who’s not getting on with their boss then find a friend at work and agree regular catch-ups. It could be just an email once a month with some gossip that helps you feel like you’re still part of the team
- Plan your return
Even though it feels like a long way off the earlier you plan your return to work the easier it will be. If you’re considering requesting some kind of flexible schedule then now is the time to start planning, especially as this could have an impact on your childcare support. Have a read of our previous article about flexible working to give you some guidance
- Start looking at all the childcare options available to you
Now is the time to start researching your childcare options. Will you use a crèche or nanny or child minder? Or do you have friends and family that will be supporting? If you’re not sure where to start then consider using the services of a childcare consultant such as the one we partner with at Mumager. A childcare consultant can help you select the right childcare for you and your budget
- Write the envelopes for any birth announcements
I know this isn’t work-related but while you’re in organizing mode then this will help. If you’re planning on sending out announcements or any photos of your newborn by post then get those envelopes written now. Having these prepared in advance will make sharing the good news much easier
- Get excited
You’re about to embark on a wonderful journey so do your best to deal with any anxieties so that you can really look forward to meeting your new little bundle of joy and spending time with them.