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I Am Anxious About Returning To Work What Can I Do

EXPERT ADVICE: Getting ready to go back to work after maternity leave is an emotional rollercoaster, so when one of our moms posted a question on our Facebook page looking for advice and information, we reached out to the Mumager coaches to get some expert help.
Mom’s question:

Hi girls. I’m looking for advice on returning to work. My maternity leave is over and I’m due back to work in two weeks. My LG is seven months old and is such a great sleeper and eater. The last week however she’s been up all night. I’m guessing with teething, no teeth yet.

I’m so stressed and anxious about leaving her. I really want to go back in July or August, I just don’t feel ready. I’ve been so stressed and crying over this and work won’t let me change my hours which has stressed me even more. I’m considering going to my GP to get signed off for a few more months. I’m wondering has anyone else done or doing this? Do I need to contact social welfare about sick pay? I’m so down about this and feel anxiety about leaving her when she is in pain with teething. Hope your mums can advise me on this. Thanks.


Mumager’s answer:

I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling anxious and stressed. You’re not alone, returning to work is tough, leading many working moms to feel guilty and torn between their work and home lives.

Let’s deal with the immediate work situation first and examine your options, as well as how to go about taking those steps.

Applying for additional leave

You say you’re due back to work in two weeks. If you’ve only taken the standard 26 weeks maternity leave, then you are also entitled to take an additional 16 weeks of extended maternity leave. To do this you need to inform your employer in writing, but it’s important to note that you are not entitled to be paid for this or receive any maternity benefit from social welfare.

If you’ve only taken the standard 26 weeks maternity leave, you are also entitled to an additional 16 weeks of extended leave

If you have already taken the additional 16 weeks’ leave then your options to extend your leave include asking for parental leave. You are entitled to 18 weeks’ parental leave which may be taken in one continuous period or in two separate blocks of a minimum of six weeks. Some employers will agree that you can separate your parental leave into periods of days or even hours. As with the additional maternity leave, you are not entitled to pay or pension contributions from your employer while you are on parental leave, nor are you entitled to any social welfare payment equivalent to maternity benefit.

To request parental leave the rules are that you must give written notice to your employer of your intention to take the leave at least six weeks before the leave is due to start. The notice should state the starting date and how long the leave will last. Although you are not able to give six weeks’ notice in your situation, don’t let that stop you from making the request. Given the stressful place you are in, your employer will benefit more from keeping you as an employee that returns a little later than expected but in a happy, productive frame of mind.

In addition, if you request and are granted parental leave you are entitled when you return to work to ask for a change in your work pattern or working hours for a set period, e.g. a four day week for one month. Your employer must consider your request, but is not obliged to grant it. This could allow you the period of adjustment that it sounds like you’re looking for.

"Your employer will benefit more from keeping you as an employee that returns a little later than expected but in a happy, productive frame of mind"

Another option is to use any annual leave that has been accrued whilst on maternity leave. During maternity leave you continue to accrue holiday days, as well as leave for all public holidays (such as New Year’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter Monday, etc) that would have occurred during your period of maternity leave. You could request to use all of this at the end of your maternity leave and therefore extend your leave by a few weeks. This would also be paid leave.

Communicating with your employer

Once you have decided what kind of leave you choose to take, the next step is how to approach your employer. Whether you choose to do this first by email or via a phone call is up to you, what’s important is that you are clear on what you want and ensure your employer can see the benefits of working with you to achieve a win-win solution. My suggestion would be to communicate by email first as that will allow you to ‘speak’ confidently without interruption. If you’re already feeling anxious, a phone call may increase things like nervousness and it’s hard to stay ‘on track’ if you feel full of emotion.

A suggested framework for an email is to:
  1. Outline the facts of the current situation that you’re due back to work on X date and that you are not ready to return as your daughter still needs your full-time care.
  2. Explain how the current situation makes you feel. You could say that the thought of returning too soon is causing you to feel stressed and anxious.
  3. Put forward your preferred solution, i.e. which leave type you would like to request and for how long and when you anticipate it starting.
  4. Outline the benefits to you and your employer of taking this leave, such as being able to return to work in a productive state of mind rather than one of anxiety.
  5. Ask your employer to consider your request reasonably and perhaps suggest a time to talk on the phone if they have any questions or need more information about the request within a couple of days.
  6. Finish the email by letting your employer know that you value and appreciate their support at this difficult time and should they be agreeable to the request then to respond as soon as they are able so that you can focus on the care of your daughter.
If your employer calls you to talk the request through then make sure you do a little mental preparation beforehand to build your inner confidence. This is not a fight to see who wins, it’s a collaboration so that you and your employer benefit. Remember that you’re offering them a win-win solution; they get the benefit of increased loyalty and engagement from you as you’ll be more productive and engaged if you can return in a timeline that better suits you and your family.
 

Outline the benefits to your employer of taking this leave, such as being able to return to work in a productive state of mind rather than one of anxiety

Dealing with stress and anxiety

Once the work issue is under control that will take some of your current stress away and hopefully some of your current anxiety will be alleviated. Don’t be fooled though, even if you do return in July or August – as you’d like to – it is completely normal that you could still feel as if you’re not ready to return and those feelings of anxiety may return. People talk about children experiencing separation anxiety when a parent returns to work, but moms suffer from this too!

During these next few months, it could be helpful to start considering what you could do to overcome any anxiety that may return. Consider taking up something like yoga or meditation – there are even meditation apps that you can download to your phone or laptop that can help you calm your mind and allow you to think more clearly for even a five-minute session. Or consider even a simple walk in the fresh air for 10 minutes – it can do wonders for alleviating stress.

 

People talk about children experiencing separation anxiety when a parent returns to work, but moms suffer from this too!

Applying for Illness Benefit

If your feelings of stress and anxiety are overwhelming and this is stopping you from giving yourself and your family the care you all need, then please do go and see your GP. There are also support groups out there who you may want to contact. Your employment contract may or may not allow for sick pay, you will need to check this. If your employer does not pay sick pay, then you may be eligible for Illness Benefit from social welfare.

 

To apply for Illness Benefit you will need to get a social welfare medical certificate (known as MC1) and application form from your GP and they will need to complete the medical certificate part of the form. You must then see your doctor and send in an intermediate medical certificate (known as MC2) each week for as long as you are ill, unless you are told otherwise.

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