Can I change my working hours?

You have the right to ask for part-time or flexible hours and your employer has a duty to seriously consider your request. 

If they don’t have a good business reason for refusing, you may be able to rely on sex discrimination law to challenge the decision.

Requesting flexible working hours involves a clear procedure, which you and your employer must follow. It can take up to 14 weeks and needs to be in place before you return to work. 

You should make a written application and your employer must then arrange a meeting to discuss it within 28 days of your initial request.

What are my working options? 

There are many different types of flexible working to consider:

  • Part time - only working part of the week
  • Home working - working some or part of your week at home
  • Job sharing - sharing your role responsibilities with someone else
  • Compressed hours - working your hours over fewer days
  • Flexi time - choosing when to work as long as it amounts to a set number of hours
  • Annualised hours - your hours are worked out over a year
  • Staggered hours - different starting, break and finishing times

When exploring these options with your employer, remember that you can combine more than one of these options.

But also remember that your employer will be more amenable to the option that works best for the business. 

Top Tips

  • If you’re weighing up the financial pros and cons of returning to work, consider any additional help (such as a cleaner) you may need
  • If you’re considering staying at home, think about the loss of future earnings as well as the lack of salary on a day-to-day basis
  • If you received additional maternity benefit from your employer, you may have to pay it back if you don’t return to work so consider if it's worth it

What benefits am I entitled to?

Depending on your income, you may be able to claim Working Families Tax Credit or qualify for child tax credit schemes, which contribute up to 80% of childcare costs. 

If your employer doesn’t already offer it, you can ask them to sign up to the childcare voucher scheme, giving working parents tax-free vouchers to use on childcare.

They are taken off your gross salary, so depending on your tax rate, they will save you up to 40% of the first £55 per week of childcare costs. 

If you’re eligible, you can both exchange up to £243 per month of your gross salary for childcare vouchers.

If you get benefits or tax credits because you’re on a low income, you may be able to get a maternity grant of £500 from the Social Fund to help with the cost of a new baby.

I’m struggling – what can I do?

Firstly, remember that you will lose your right to return to work if you don’t go back at the end of your Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) or Additional Maternity Leave (AML).  

However, if you’re struggling to return to work after taking your full leave entitlement, there are a number of things you could request from your employer.

Ask to take annual leave. Paid holiday continues to accrue during maternity leave so you may have some holiday owing to you. You can ask for a further period off work. If your employer agrees, ask them to confirm this agreement in writing, stating that you’ll have the right to return to the same job. 

You can also ask to take some Parental Leave. You must give 21 days’ notice and it’s usually unpaid unless your employer offers paid parental leave.

I'm not well - what can I do? 

If you’re suffering from illness, you can take sick leave as long as you follow your employer's sickness procedures. 

You'll need to notify your employer as soon as you realise that you won't be able to return to work due to your illness.

Returning to work after having a baby can be tough, but there are many sources of help. Some local authorities have welfare rights officers who you can contact by phoning your social services department. 

You should also be able to get employment and benefits advice from Working Families, ACAS and the Citizens Advice Bureau.

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