Having a baby means having a lot to plan for, from figuring out how much leave you can take, to making a plan for getting affordable childcare.
Use this action plan on parental leave to find out what support you’re entitled to and what choices you have.
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Read our guide to Parental Leave to find out what you're entitled to
Find out what you’re entitled to while pregnant, when your partner is expecting, or when you’ve had a baby or adopted a child.
Did you know that all pregnant women get free prescriptions and dental treatment? Or that pregnant employees are legally entitled to paid time off to attend relaxation classes, hospital clinics and appointments with their GP?
Working Families has a helpful weekly guide to maternity rights and benefits so you can get an overview of what you’re entitled to at what stage. You can also use it to find out when you need to give your employer notice to take maternity, paternity, or shared parental leave.
Check your employer’s maternity or paternity package to see what level of pay you’re entitled to, and what other benefits they offer. Most banks offer more than the legal minimum, and they may be able to support you in other ways too.
Checking your employer’s parental leave policies is especially important if your circumstances aren’t common, for example if you’ve become a special guardian for someone else’s children. In cases like these, it’s worth having a chat with someone in your HR department to find out what you’re entitled to.
If you have a partner, or other live-in family members helping out, make a formal agreement as to who does what.
This helps everyone understand their responsibilities and avoids anyone making assumptions. And it's especially helpful if you're returning to work after being on leave. Consider things like:
- Drop-off and pick-up at childcare
- Day bag preparation, like packing nappies, wipes and snacks
- Making packed lunches
- Who gets contacted first when there’s an emergency
- Back-up childcare options when your child, or your childminder, is sick
- Chores like cleaning, cooking and shopping for food
Seek out other working parents to get support from, and share stories with about managing the transition from the office to the nursery, or back again.
Lots of banks have employee-led networks for working parents. These generally operate independently of employers and can be a great source of support. If you’re planning to go back to work, search on your intranet, contact HR or ask your line manager about parents’ groups you could join. And use your local children’s centre (you’ll be connected to one when your baby arrives) as an opportunity to meet other new mums and dads. Or consider joining the NCT, which runs courses for new parents.
If you're planning to return to work when your leave ends, speak to your employer about how many ‘keeping in touch days’ you can use.
You can choose to work up to 10 of these days during your maternity, adoption or additional paternity leave. This doesn’t affect your leave or pay, but both you and your employer need to agree to them. These days can give you a good opportunity to ensure you don’t feel cut off from your professional identity. They can also help you stay up to date with changes at work, attend team events, and make returning to work feel less daunting when it comes around.
Weigh up your options for going back, or not going back.
Nobody knows how they’ll react to becoming a parent until they are one, and it’s not unusual to question if going back to your job is worthwhile. Usually, what has ultimate sway is how much it’ll cost versus how much money you’ll have coming in. Consider things like:
The cost of childcare
Most new parents underestimate how much this will actually cost.
The logistics of childcare
What time will you need to drop off and pick up your child, and how easily can you or your partner get there if your child gets sick?
What you or your partner will be earning
Including whether this will be full- or part-time wages.
The cost of going to work
How much will you or your partner be spending on travel, lunches and other expenses?
Can you get flexible working?
For example, working from home, or working fewer or different hours than you used to.Citizens Advice has helpful content on your employment options when your maternity leave ends. This includes what to do if your employer doesn’t allow you return, or if they offer you a different job without a good reason for doing so.
Explore your options to find out what’s best for your situation. Choosing childcare can be daunting, especially if it’s the first time you’ve had to think about it. But your ability to get care that’s affordable and suitable will be a big factor in whether you or your partner return to work. And many people, especially new parents, greatly underestimate how much it can cost.
You might be able to get help with the costs of childcare through childcare vouchers, working tax credits or some other means. So make sure you know what you’re entitled to. Read our article on how to find the childcare that's right for you.
Speak to your line manager or someone in HR about support your employer can offer you as a working mum or dad.
For example, you could request flexible working so you can better work around your child’s needs, but it’s also worth asking what other types of support they can offer you.