Leaving your baby in childcare
Feeling as emotionally prepared as you can about leaving your baby in someone else’s care is just as important as coordinating your childcare schedule. Even if you can’t wait to see your colleagues and return to your job, leaving your baby for the first time can be difficult.
Here are some tips to help:
- Make sure your baby has done a gradual handover to the person responsible for their childcare. Most will insist on this. A few hours a day in the weeks leading up to work can really help your baby adjust to the change.
- Remember that they will adjust, even if they are tearful at first so try not to dwell on this. Many children cry at the start, but they get used to the new situation quickly and enjoy having playmates.
- If they can, get your partner to do the drop-off or handover to the new childcare provider on the first few days (or every day) so you don’t have to deal with the tears.
- Being organised is helpful. Know in advance what time you need to get up, how long it takes to get everyone to the right place and how long it will take you to get to work.
Breastfeeding and expressing at work
This section is anyone who will be breastfeeding when they return to work.
WHO and UNICEF recommend breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life and introducing solid foods at 6 months, ideally with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.
If you want to continue breastfeeding when you return to work, it’s a good idea to let your employer know in advance so they can make arrangements and do a risk assessment. Your employer needs to include any potential risks to you in their workplace risk assessment. If your work brings you into contact with any physical, chemical or biological agents that could affect you or your baby’s health while you are breastfeeding, talk to them about this.
If you’re working from home and have childcare at home, you might be able to continue breastfeeding in your breaks. If you work in an office and have childcare nearby, you might be able to manage feeds during the day – but you’re more likely to want to express milk.
There is no legal right for your employer to provide breastfeeding breaks at work but they should be flexible around your needs. For example, workplace regulations require employers to provide suitable facilities where anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding can rest. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also recommends that it's good practice for employers to provide a private, healthy and safe environment for expressing and storing milk.
Phasing out breastfeeding
Lots of people who work away from home choose to phase out breastfeeding or move to combined feeding around the time they start work. This takes time. If you start doing it very close to your back-to-work date, you may need to express while you’re at work if your breasts become uncomfortably full, until your body adjusts.
As you gradually reduce your breastfeeding, you may decide to continue with just 1 feed – for example, in the evening after work.
Different ways to return to work
Some employers offer a gradual return to work where you start doing fewer hours or days than usual – often called a ‘phased return’. If you’d like to do this, it’s a good idea to speak to your employer about this in advance so they know your plans.
You can use your keeping in touch (KIT) or shared parental in touch (SPLIT) days to gradually settle back into working life and build up to your regular hours. But be aware that even if you use only a couple of hours, this still counts as a full KIT or SPLIT day.
Some people want to return to work in a more flexible way. If you’d like to do this, have a look at your organisation’s flexible working policy before applying. It’s a good idea to discuss your plans with your employer before your return-to-work date.
If you’ve worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks, you’re entitled to ask your employer to consider flexible working.
- annualised hours standard hours spread over the year but varying around your needs – for example, working longer hours during term time and shorter in the school holidays
- compressed hours standard hours spread over fewer days
- flexitime working pre-agreed core hours, such as 11am–3pm, with the remaining hours to suit you
- job share dividing your role and hours with someone else
- part-time – fewer hours or fewer days than full time
- staggered hours working different hours to others, such as working 7am–3pm when most do 9–5pm
- remote working such as working from home.
Your employer isn’t required to agree to your application if it will negatively affect business, but they are required to consider it in a ‘reasonable manner’. This means things like:
- assessing the pros and cons
- meeting you to discuss the application
- if they say no, offering you an appeal process.
Make sure you’re familiar with your organisation’s flexible working policy and the ACAS Code of Practice on flexible working as if the request goes to tribunal, the judge will expect your employer to have followed this.