Returning to work

Returning to work after having a baby

Returning to work after parental leave can be scary, but there is lots of support out there to help your return go as smoothly as possible and to help you maintain a positive work/life balance. If you want to change your return date, either by staying on maternity leave longer than planned or returning to work sooner than planned, you must tell your employer at least 8 weeks before you’re due to return.

Your rights

26 weeks or less
The first 26 weeks of maternity leave are called ‘ordinary maternity leave’ under the law.
You have the right to return to the same job after ordinary maternity leave.

More than 26 weeks
More than 26 weeks’ maternity leave is called ‘additional maternity leave’ under the law.

If you use additional maternity leave, you still have the right to return to your job on the same terms as before you left. But if it’s not possible because there have been significant changes to the organisation, you could be offered a similar job. This job must be on the same terms as your old job and things like pay, holiday entitlement and location of the job cannot be worse than your old job.
Resolve an unfair dismissal

Holiday entitlement

Health and safety

Flexible working

You can make a request to your employer for flexible working at any time and this can help you to balance your work and family commitments. For example, you could change your hours, work from home or job share.

Remember, employers don’t have to accept your request for flexible working, but they should always arrange a meeting to discuss your request, respond to your request within 3 months and give their response in writing, including reasons for declining.

Making a flexible working request
What changes will work best for you?
What to do if your employer says you can’t work flexibly

Leaving your job after maternity leave

If you decide not to return to your job after maternity leave, your contract should state how much notice you need to give. If nothing is in your contract, you need to give at least 1 weeks’ notice.

Check how much holiday entitlement you have left and make sure you are paid for this, including any time built up during your maternity leave.

If you get statutory maternity pay or Maternity Allowance, you will not need to pay this back if you don’t return to work.

If you get contractual maternity pay, you might only get to keep the full amount if you return to work. You should check your contract for clarification.

Check how much maternity pay you can get

If you decide you want to find a new job, take a look at our finding a job page for tips and advice


Working from home

ACAS – Working from Home

Top tips for working from home

  • Stick to a routine and maintain a healthy work/life balance

  • Take plenty of breaks – remember to step away from the screen regularly

  • Keep in touch with your manager and your colleagues – don’t lose out on social interaction

  • Have a dedicated workspace. Read the NHS guidelines to set up your workspace correctly and talk to your employer about reasonable adjustments if you need to

  • Boundaries – try as much as possible not to mix home and work. Use flexible working if possible, and remember to switch off at the end of the day

Useful links


It is against the law for your employer to make you redundant because you are pregnant or on maternity leave.

You can be made redundant while pregnant or on maternity leave (as long as it is not because your are pregnant or on maternity leave), but there are strict rules that must be followed before this can happen.

There is additional protection for people on maternity leave or shared parental leave. If your role is made redundant for a genuine reason then your employer must offer you suitable alternative work if they have it.

Top tips

  • Communication – being open and honest with your manager will help them to help you

  • Set reasonable expectations – set expectations with your colleagues, manager and yourself

  • Be kind to yourself – it’s ok to feel worried or overwhelmed; everyone is different and it’s about finding out what works best for you

  • Ask for help if you need it – there is lots of support out there and there’s no shame in asking for support

  • Take your time – go at your own pace and don’t push yourself too hard. Finding a new balance takes time but you’ll get there.

Parents and carers returning to work webinar

Southampton City Council Employment Support Team’s
webinar for parents and carers returning to work

Parenting and employment

Skip to content