If you have a new baby or are expecting, work is probably the last thing on your mind, and you may not want to return to work after maternity leave. Find out what you’re entitled to and what you should do to minimise the damage on your purse.
You and your partner need to think about the emotional and practical pros and cons of being a full-time mum, while ignoring the influence of other mums, society in general, and that whacking great injection of guilt the midwife must have slipped you shortly after the birth.
You’ll need to consider the pros and cons of being a full-time mum
Here I’m going to cover some of the financial pros and cons if you don’t want to return to work after maternity leave.
Do I have to return to work after maternity leave?
It’s the big question and the answer is no!
You must give the normal notice period
Look at your contract to see what the notice period is. Time your notice letter to end at the end of your maternity leave, or another date if that suits you better.
You could be entitled to child tax credit
After your maternity leave, you might be entitled to child tax credits.
It’s a complicated formula, but you could get around £2,700 per year if you have one child and your household takes in less than about £16,000.
You might get around £4,500 if you have two children, £6,500 if you have three children, and around £2,000 extra for each subsequent child.
However, you get fewer credits the higher your household income. If you have one child you probably won’t receive any child tax credit if your other household income hits £24,000, for example.
You could be entitled to other benefits
Whether you return to work or not, you will continue to be eligible for child benefit.
In addition, depending on your family circumstances, such as income and disabilities, your household might be entitled to working tax credits, housing benefit, income support, and a bewildering array of other benefits that might apply to you, with or without children.
You could get a better idea of what you’re entitled to, and find out how to apply, by using the government’s online benefits adviser tool.
Don’t forget to check what benefits you will be entitled to
You might have to pay back some maternity pay
If your employer paid you enhanced maternity pay, which means that they gave you more than the statutory maternity pay, there may be a clause in your contract saying you must return to work.
It might state, for example, that you must come back to work for at least three months or you’ll have to repay the enhanced pay you received. Your employer cannot ask you to repay the statutory maternity pay.
If this happens, you will repay the net amount and your employer will adjust your tax and NI records to claim the tax element back.
You probably won’t be entitled to support for childcare
When your child turns three, you’ll start getting the benefits of the free nursery care for your young child but, until then, you probably won’t get childcare support if you’re a full-time mum.
Getting back into a career again can be tricky
It may be that you’ll find it hard to start work again after taking a long break, and employers might find you less desirable as a result. Personally, however, I’ve never let maybes stop me doing what I feel is right at the time.
If and when the time comes to restart work again in the future, consider that the government might pay you a job grant of £250 if you’ve been receiving means-tested benefits, and colleges might help with childcare costs if you’re retraining.
Consider part-time work
As an alternative, you might want to return to work after maternity leave, but go part-time instead.
You have no statutory right to go down to part-time work, but you can ask for your employer to consider flexible or part-time working hours.
If they don’t seriously consider your request, you could have a case for discrimination. Citizens’ Advice should be able to help you submit your request in the proper way. It’s important to do so far in advance of when you mean to go part-time.