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Annabel: One of the things employers find difficult about maternity leave is the fact there is no obligation on a woman to let them know if she is not going to return. A woman can have a year’s maternity leave and then say “Oh, I am not coming back” and there is nothing an employer can do.
Allie: Iit is a difficult decision for the employee, especially in the current economic climate..
Annabel: Childcare in the UK is expensive and nursery places get booked up in advance. The average cost of 25 hours nursery for a child under two in England is £5028 (http://www.daycaretrust.org.uk/pages/childcare-costs-surveys.html), but the highest cost of day care was £14,300 for 25 hours a week.
Allie: Add up the cost of childcare, travel, lunches, and clothes for work, and weigh it up against the cost of your take home pay, travel time and your health and well-being. For women earning less than £12,000 a year this can simply be impossible (unless free or highly subsidised childcare is available) http://www.workingmums.co.uk/working-mums-magazine/all/page_4/2509116/families-struggling-with-childcare-costs.thtml
Even if you are earning a good deal more than minimum wage, this is a good time to start thinking about whether your current position is helping you towards your future career plans.
Annabel: Employers can take the opportunity to review a position. A flexible working request may arrive towards the end of maternity leave and it is a good idea to work out whether you could get the job done on fewer hours, or with altered duties.
Allie: If you don’t return to full time work while your children are small, you can keep your skills up to date: through additional training or qualifications, getting involved with local community projects or networks. Some of my clients have offered their skills to local employers in a similar business and act either as a virtual assistant or as a ‘consultant’ where they can be called on for help. Women are very innovative. One woman went from a banking position to creating all the birthday and celebration cakes for the local schoolchildren in . This can be the moment when many women start their own business.
Annabel: Many employers put ‘non-compete’ or ‘restraint clauses’ into their contracts. If you are thinking about starting your own business you should read your contract to make sure that you do not breach any term of your contract. Even if there are no specific clauses you should be careful that you are not using confidential information that belongs to your employer or mailing lists.
Allie: There are so many unknowns and variables when having a child. You may not wish to return to work but then, should your partner lose their job, everything changes. No wonder we try to keep options open! It can be really difficult to work with the baby’s needs, your partner’s needs (if you have one), your boss’s needs and your own. Don’t forget your partner can have paternity leave now. According to the Fawcett Society every additional one month’s paternity leave increases a woman’s lifetime earning potential by about 7%.
Annabel: Employers can get confused by the status of conversations around leaving a job or not returning. Some misinterpret “I might not be able to come back” as “I am not coming back”. You should be very clear about when you are considering options and where you have made up your mind. It is a good idea to confirm by email or letter what you have said and explored.
Allie: If you don’t start talking until the last minute and then need answers quickly and decide on the day of your return not to come back, this can seem to your employer as if you are being difficult and obstructive. If you need their support you need to plan in enough time for them to respond. It may be this is your moment to strike out on your own and set up your own business – many women have done so around having a first child.
Are you thinking about becoming self employed? Follow this link for a free download on things to consider.
Posted by on 01/09/2011 16:42:16
Jackie Groundsell is known as the queen of women's business networking lunches - the connector. She supports thousands of small business owners through her events and lunch-time meetings