Thinking about returning to work after children? Aimee Alexandra founder of www.back-in-business.co.uk is a professional HR Advisor specialising in this field. Aimee ran a live Q&A session on our Facebook page, answering questions from our followers. If you need a bit of advice why not check out her answers here?
Qu 1, from: Steve N Dianne Hargreaves I’d like to know how it stands on working mum rights if you are part time. I’ve been over looked 3 times at my place of work for promotion because I work 3 days not full time, even though I am the longest serving member of staff. The last time ended in a very heated argument with the acting manager ( my manager was on maternity leave herself). Basically she told me that my years of experience counted for nothing!!! Unfortunately I seem to be in a catch 22 situation when going for other jobs, as I don’t have experience but can’t get any because nobody will give me the chance to get any, including my own management!! I have only worked in 2 jobs. I have paid for courses myself to try to improve my chances but still this doesn’t seem to help! ( moan over!)
Aimee’s Answer: Part time workers are protected by law from being treated less favorably than equivalent full time workers, just because they are part time. This means that you certainly should get the same treatment as your colleagues when it comes to opportunities and career progression. If you feel you are being treated less favorably by your employer, purely on the grounds of your working pattern, then you should firstly speak to them about this. Sounds like you’ve tried this to no avail in the past – are you a member of a trade union? If so I would suggest also discussing with them. You have the right to request a written statement of the reasons from your employer, which they must provide to you within 21 days. If you are still not satisfied that you have been dealt with objectively then you should follow your companies grievance procedure. You can contact your HR person for this, it usually starts by you making a formal complaint in writing followed by a meeting with your employer to discuss your concerns formally.
Qu 2, from Caroline Beckett I would love to know how to improve my skills ready for getting back into work next year. I plan to work in a school either office bound or as a TA. I don’t have many office skills and no Teacher qualifications. Any help and advice would be brilliant.
Aimee’s Answer: This is one I come across many times and I think it’s great that you’re already starting to think about how you can prepare yourself for your return to work. LEAs and individual schools decide which qualifications and experience they want applicants to have, you can get a good idea of what they are likely to be looking for by looking at locally advertised jobs or via your LEAs online vacancies. Any qualifications in childcare or youth work would be useful as a starting point, if you have enough experience of working with children or can show potential employers that you have the right personal attributes for the job, you may be able to start work without formal qualifications. Volunteering in a local school for a few hours a week is a great place to start.
For general skills there might be refresher courses that can update your existing skills or you could take a computer course to update your IT skills. Have a look at www.learndirect.co.uk for more info. You might also be able to gain some qualifications and get into this line of work through an apprenticeship.
Qu 3, from Louise Garford I’m back to work 1 week today! I have been doing my KIT days at work so I’m happy with what I am doing and that I haven’t forgotten anything! My son has been going to nursery for 1 day per week since he was 3 months (he is now 9m) so I’m happy he is settled in, and I’m only going back for 3 days per week so at least I still get extra time with him. I am still a little anxious about returning though. Just how I am going to adjust to being back in work. I’m hoping it will make me feel more like me again, and give me my own life back, but I’m also a little concerned that it’ll all be too much and I’ll miss him too much. And the same as has already been mentioned. My managers have worked hard to get me my 3 days instead of 5, but now, I’ll be stuck in this same job forever……. I’m sure I’ll adjust after a couple of months and settle back in.
Aimee’s Answer:it is a really tough transition, having a baby changes so many things doesn’t it, often including your priorities at work! You are by no means alone, I think every mum can identify with you and what you’re currently feeling. I think it’s great to see how much you have prepared in the run up, using your KIT days and settling your little one into nursery will all help to make the experience of returning to work much smoother! I understand your concerns regarding getting saddled into the same job forever, but you know it really shouldn’t be this way, as detailed in a previous response just because you work part time does not mean you can be treated any less favorably. Just take it one day at a time, you will soon be settled into a new routine, as you’ve said your little one is settled and happy at nursery so you know you don’t need to be too concerned on that front, which is a great starting point!
Talk to your family and friends about your concerns and don’t be afraid to be honest with your employer too – a lot of us have been they and will be really understanding!
Qu 4, from Sarah Swindell My husband works shifts and although I’m working I’d like to retrain. I’d love to do teacher training but I’d have no childcare every other week to go to night school. Are there flexible options to retrain?
Aimee’s Answer: Yes, there certainly are flexible training options out there. I know personally as I went back to university alongside my full time job via night school while studying for my HR qualifications. I did this through my local university, and would therefore suggest you contact your local establishments to see if they do anything similar. There are also lots of options for courses you can study from home, via the Open University www.open.ac.uk. You can find more info regarding flexible courses here; www.ucas.com. Apprenticeship schemes may also be able to offer you something; www.apprenticeships.org.uk
Qu 5, from Melanie McNaught Hi Aimee, I’m currently working a 16 hour week and receiving benefits (I’m a single mum of two). I’m struggling with the low income and am considering going back to work full time. I’m really concerned about childcare costs and the reality of fitting everyday life in if I did so… Any advice would be greatly appreciated, thank you.
Aimee’s Answer: One of the biggest challenges mums have often voiced to me when making their return to work is their concerns about childcare. The thought of leaving your baby/child in the care of another person after being their sole carer for so long is hard. Like everything, it will seem daunting at first but with a bit of time both you & baby will settle into your new routine. And the costs can also be a worry! I think the key is finding the right childcare for your family, so that you can feel as comfortable as possible. Look into the different types of childcare available to you, for example, childminder, nursery, nanny, family/friend, weigh up the pros & cons of each and decide what will work best for you.
Another question I am frequently asked is “how will I do it all?” And the answer… You won’t! Mums often place a lot of pressure on themselves to be the perfect mum, the perfect housewife, the perfect employee. But no one is perfect! Accept that there will be days when something might have to give a little, it’s not the end of the world if the dishwasher hasn’t been loaded or you fed the kids an oven pizza. And you don’t have to do it all alone, whatever your family situation we all have someone we can rely on & call for help. Don’t be afraid to accept or even ask for some support when you need it. We all like to feel useful & most of us will be more than happy to chip in & help to take the pressure off! When it comes to work, be honest with your employer, try not to take on more than you think you can manage, especially within your first few months back. Being a mum, managing a household & having a job is tough… Believe me you’re doing a great job!
www.gingerbread.org.uk is a great charity that can offer you support in terms of looking at your finances & benefits. Which will enable you to look at whether returning to work is financially the right option for you. If it turns out not to be, you could look into undertaking some volunteering to keep up your skills.
Qu 6, from Gill Ireland I’m so scared of returning work. I can’t go back to career I had and I do have a degree but no recent experience or IT qualifications. I’d like to be a teacher but frankly I’m not sure I could do all the hours with small children. Can you do teacher training part time and are teachers employed full time?
Aimee’s Answer: Thank you for your question! First of all it is totally natural and very common to feel scared and a bit overwhelmed about returning to work! So please don’t think you’re alone. Like with any big change, it is going to feel daunting. So how can we make it a little less like that? Break the huge task of returning to work up into little, more manageable chunks. You’ve started that well by thinking about what work you might want to move into. As mentioned in a previous response there are many routes into teaching jobs and a great place to start, both for your CV and your confidence would be some volunteering. Perhaps approach your local school or children’s club and see if you can help out for a few hours a week. This is also a great way to test the waters and see whether teaching really could be for you, before embarking on any formal training. You can find more information regarding the different routes into teaching here: http://www.skill.org.uk/page.aspx?c=265&p=384
There are some part time teaching jobs out there but I think most tend to be full time, perhaps a Teaching Assistant or Special Educational Needs supporter or something along those lines might suit you better for now as these roles tend to be available on a more flexible basis.
Qu 7, from Ruth Fleurie I have recently gone back to work after 6 years away!! I am dreading how I am going to manage over half term as I am unable to take any holiday! I have family looking after my 3 children for two of the days but am stuck for the other day, any suggestions?
Aimee’s Answer: Firstly that’s fabulous news that you’ve made your return after such a long time away! Well done you! Ahh the dreaded half terms! It sounds like you’ve really tried to cover these days as best you can, have you spoken to your employer about the issues you’re having? Don’t be afraid to discuss this with them, many will have children and most will have dealt with this before professional too so they will completely understand how tricky it can be! You might be able to work something out with them so perhaps you could work one less day over half term and make the day up the following week when the kids are back at school. Or perhaps you could work from home that day if you’re children are old enough to let you get something done?!
If all else fails you are entitled to take unpaid emergency leave see https://www.gov.uk/time-off-for-dependants/taking-time-off for more info.
Qu 8, from Martine Somerville Have you got any advice on what to say to children if you are returning to work after being a stay at home mum for quite a while to stop them from feeling vulnerable and worried?
Aimee’s Answer: I think the key is to be honest with them… difficult one without knowing the ages of your children but children tend to feel more vulnerable and not at ease when they can sense something is changing but don’t quite know why. Explain to them your reasons for returning to work where possible, and the benefits this will bring to them and to you all as a family. Talk to them about their new childcare plans and if possible involve them in elements of the decision making… if they feel involved they are more likely to embrace the changes – like all of us! Before making your return to work, try a few practice runs in your new childcare plan so that it gives you all a chance to iron out any issues and to feel more comfortable with the arrangement so that you can return to work more confidently. Children like routine and as things are changing you may find there needs to be a settling in period, but this will soon come as you all
Qu 8, from Emma-Jayne Porteous Hi wondering if there are any jobs available for a single mum of 2 which suits school times? I don’t want to be a TA or work in a school.
Aimee’s Answer: I would advise to start by really thinking about what it is you want out of work, besides the flexibility. Is there something you have a passion for? What are the things your family and friends would say you excel at? What skills and experience do you have? It’s important to find a career that will motivate and be suited to you. In terms of work to fit around school hours, thinking outside of the box, you could look for a work from home/franchise opportunity www.franchiseindex.co.uk or you could look to retrain in a job which you could run around hours to suit you such as becoming a hypnotherapist or a photographer. This is something I can completely identify with and therefore we are launching a job board via our website that will specialise in flexible job opportunities only -keep your eyes peeled!
Qu 8, from Ashley Wells I am wondering if there are any websites set up for mums looking for part time work? Also about the flexibility of not working weekends as childcare for me is really hard at the weekends? I do have a job to return to but the start and finish times don’t work with dropping/picking up from nursery. I have asked for reduced hours but have been told this is not possible because of business demands. Any advice would be brill…thank you
Aimee’s Answer: Thanks for your question!This is something I can completely identify with and therefore we are launching a job board via our website that will specialise in flexible opportunities only – keep your eyes peeled.
In terms of requesting to reduce your hours, did you discuss other flexible working options? Such as whether you could compress your hours – work the same hours over fewer days or the potential to work from home? – so that you could work around the drop offs & pick ups? If not I would pick up with them again & explain that your current working hours are really no longer going to work for you. Explain how much you want to find a solution that will be acceptable to both parties and discuss your other flexible working options, have a look at www.acas.org.uk/flexibleworking for more info on your rights and the ACAS code of practice – the process yourself and your employer should follow.
Qu 9, from Catherine Manners Hi Aimee, Do you think that volunteering can help your cv if you’ve been out of work for a while?
Aimee’s Answer: Hi Catherine, definitely yes! Volunteering is a great way to boost your CV, sharpen up your skills and enhance your experience. I’d say try to be clever about what it is you’re actually doing… think of the bigger picture, if you want to be a carer for example, volunteering at a village fete might not be the best use of your time, however volunteering at a local nursing home would be much more appropriate. When you’ve taken some time out of work, you really need to look for things that will make you stand out from the crowd of other applicants who haven’t taken that break. Doing a job in your own time, without remuneration, shows your passion for the career and that’s something that will really mark you out to prospective employers.
Qu 10, from Tracy Reeks Hiya, having raised a family for the last few years I am looking at returning to work but am slightly nervous about having confidence in the work place as I feel for the last few years I’ve only had to deal with children.
Aimee’s Answer: Firstly you’re not alone! This is one the most common issues I come across. Let’s just highlight something you said ‘for the last few years I’ve had to deal with children’ – arguably the toughest, most important “job” there is! My advice would be to take some time out, perhaps when the kids are in bed, grab yourself a glass of wine (why not?!), a pad and a pen. Draw a line down the centre and pop a title on one side ‘motherhood’ and on the other ‘work’ and make a list of all the parallels for example time management, team leadership, delegation – all needed in both areas of life and I’m sure you are a whizz with all your experience!
Qu 11, from Nicole Harris Hi Aimee, I’m looking at returning to work. As a single mum, I’m concerned that working part time, I’ll be worse off as my benefits will be cut. Is it possible to find out where i stand on this?
Aimee’s Answer: I think this is a concern of many parents, particularly those who are the sole breadwinners! There’s a fabulous charity organisation that is specifically for single parents who can help you with your query www.gingerbread.org.uk. They offer free advice in relation to a whole host of things including benefits & employment via their confidential helpline; 0808 802 0925.
A BIG thank you to Aimee for her excellent and detailed answers. If you have a question or would like some advice from Aimee, why not check out her website ‘Back in Business’