Having a baby is one of life’s biggest milestones and one of the most exciting times of parents’ lives; with many changes both physically and mentally taking place and numerous decisions that need to be made. For many women, this will also include having to prepare time off work both before a baby’s arrival as well as after the child is born, but what exactly are the best steps to take?

As a new parent, you may require differing degrees of help, support and assistance (more information). Prior to that however, there are other things to think about and arrange. We tell you everything you need to know about preparing for time off work, in order to ensure that you have everything in place to facilitate a smooth transition into maternity leave.

Formalities of Taking Maternity Leave

Generally speaking, the key to good preparation for taking time off work for your newborn is to arrange everything as early as possible. This will not only help to give you some peace of mind and avoid unnecessary stress during your pregnancy, but will also help your employer to make plans and provisions whilst you are on leave.

The Lead Up to Leave

Here are some of the things that should be considered in the lead up to taking off work for maternity leave:

  • Maternity leave in the UK can start in or after the 11th week before your baby is born. However, it is important to note that your maternity leave can start with immediate effect if you are off work from the fourth week before your baby is due, if it is do with your pregnancy
  • Technically, you must inform your employer about maternity leave by the end of the 15th week before your baby is due, as well as the date you would like maternity leave to commence
  • There is the potential to take up to 52 weeks maternity leave. This is irrespective of the length of time you have worked at your employer
  • By law, you must take at least two weeks off work after you have had your baby. This increases to four weeks if you are a factory (or manual) worker
  • Your employer must write to you and confirm the date you are expected to return from maternity leave within 28 days of receiving your statutory notice
  • You are entitled to ‘keeping in touch days’ during your maternity leave without this affecting the pay you are entitled to. This means you can work for up to ten days during this time, with the intent of such days helping you to keep in contact with work or any training that needs to be undertaken. However, it is not obligatory

The above numbers are all based on the guaranteed minimum available to mums-to-be, so it is important to check if you may be entitled to more leave in your position.

Additionally, it may be worth using the GOV.UK maternity leave and pay calculator if you are unsure as to what you are entitled to, by filling in the online form with your personal information. You can also check for paternity leave too.

Additional Considerations for Maternity Leave

Organising your maternity leave is not always the easiest thing to do. It can end up being overwhelming, especially when you are already trying to prepare for the arrival of a child on top of all of the admin. However, once you have prepared your work plans, it is perhaps worth considering the following:

  • Keep an open mind about work and see how you feel about returning to work after maternity leave and once the baby is actually born
  • Stay connected with work – even if just the odd phone call or email during your leave
  • Make sure you are gaining as much emotional support as possible during this time off work, in order to make the transition back to work easier

Try not to stress too much about taking time off work. In the grand scheme of things, taking a few months or a year out to look after your child is a small amount of time in what is usually a 40-year career or even longer.