Thinking creatively about parental leave… and returning to work!

From Reed Global

*or 90% of your salary, whichever is lower. 

That’s what that asterisk refers to that you can’t see in the image above (from @reedglobal). That’s right, £136.78/week or 90% of your salary…whichever is lower

Stauatory Leave vs. Organisational Policies.

Stauatory Maternity Leave (SML) and Shared Parental Leave (SPL) financial terms, as set by the government, are a complete joke. While it’s good that the UK has some provisions for statutory leave (in the strictest sense of ‘better than nothing’), the reality is that it’s actually on very poor terms indeed. What SML – and since April 2015 SPL – actually provide is a legal starting point in the minds of employers and employees. Something that says, ‘hey organisations! when someone becomes a parent in your company here’s your legal obligation to them. What you do or don’t do over and above that is your call’. That’s right it’s up to the organisations and their people to decide on the structure and terms of leave, flexible working and transition agreements. It’s a negotiation between parties with different aims, hopes and requirements to find a solution that works for all. The government has merely provided legal grounds. The rest is down to organisational culture. 

For maternity leave, paternity leave and shared parental leave, when you’re planning family and career you really need to think about what you can negotiate with your employer, or perhaps both of your employers (yours and your partner’s where possible), as to what your ideal leave/return/sharing/transition set-up would look like, and what cards you have to play on both sides.

All too often through our work at The Juggling Act programme we see women who are already working extremely hard, then having child(ren) and saying, “well is it really worth it for me to go back to work? Given that after child care costs my salary only brings in X”. The reality is that for those families where there are two parents in the picture, it should be a calculation based on household income, household needs and ideals and not be mentally debited from only the mother.


All too often through our work at The Juggling Act programme we see women who are already working extremely hard, then having child(ren) and saying, “well is it really worth it for me to go back to work? Given that after child care costs my salary only brings in X”. The reality is that for those families where there are two parents in the picture, it should be a calculation based on household income, household needs and ideals and not be mentally debited from only the mother.

Looking at the Whole Picture. 

There are lots of great reasons for looking at leave, parenting responsibilities, career development, promotion and pay as a whole household, and as part of long-term strategy for organisations, but here are a few. With more new mothers returning to the workforce than ever before and almost three-quarters of women with children in full- or part-time work, it’s unsurprising that there is huge talent and therefore opportunity, sitting within this ever-growing pool of working mothers. For the mothers themselves, looking at what’s left after childcare costs for only one salary ignores the opportunity cost of the longer term benefits of going back to work. In other words, yes it’s a nightmare juggling act at times, especially with very young children, but as time goes on and the kid(s) go to school and eventually leave home altogether, parents will have more and more time and energy to devote to work. Or put another way, when parents first go back to work after baby – that’s the hardest bit. The reality is that although it takes time, career prospects and time to devote to work will only increase and become easier. Having your hat in the ring now is what counts, it’s what gives you the chance to be around for opportunities later. For employers this means reaping the benefits of highly motivated, highly experienced, highly focused parents who are through the most challenging parts of juggling career and kids. You trusted them, you invested in them, they stuck with you. Everyone wins.

Structuring Leave Creatively.

 Because of the way the law is set out and then any company policies on top of that, it can be tempting to just go along with it. Or to assume it will be best to take as much time with as much pay as your organisation will allow. And in some cases this will absoutely make sense. For others they feel there is a sort of ‘feast or famine’ aspect to taking a whole year. One minute you’re having coffee with other mums, dads and babies, deeply immersed in all things little people, and the next you’re expected to dump them in nursery and entirely switch your focus back to work.

So what might a smart transition look like? For some (and I am one of them), 2 or 3 months completely off to heal and bond with baby, followed by a phased return, starting to take on a project or two and gradually build back up can be a great option. Whatever is best for you and your family, there are two key things to keep in mind here: 

1. Everything is a negotiation. 

This goes for both sides. A negotiation is not a bad thing, quite the opposite. Assume nothing, break away from traditional mindsets, put yourself in your employer’s shoes and think about what you can offer – or compromise on – to help them, so you can get the non-negotiables you and your family need too. There’s a win-win in there somewhere, if you are serious about building an incredible career at a pivotal time in your life, it is worth the effort to find it. 

2. Be creative.

The most successful leave, transition, return/flex structures we’ve seen have also been a little ‘out there’, there’s been some thinking outside the box from both sides – employer and employee – and it has resulted in an agreement that really suited both sides. Empathy is displayed. Listening happens. Possibility steps in. These are the conversations that have been open and honest, equal, non-defensive and results-driven. The respect the employee gains for the employer is huge, and vice-versa. It makes both sides want to do better and be better for the success of the organisation. And eventually, there will be no ‘sides’ at all. Just people. Just organisations. Trying to be better, more innovative, more successful, more customer-centric, more equal. That’s the Juggling Act vision. 

#sharedparentalleave #planningparentalleave #structuringparentalleave #winwin #considerbothsides #becreative #everythingisnegotiable #loveworkloveparenting #organisationaldevelopment

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