Maternity leave is a mixed bag – it brings joy, concern, happiness and stress for all concerned. For employees who are focused on developing their career, maternity leave is going to be a huge consideration.

Can you afford to forego your income, how long to have off, how will I cope, when do I tell my boss, how will I deal with letting go of responsibilities, and what will my role look like when I return?

When do I tell my employer I need maternity leave?

As an employee there are a few things to consider initially; when you decide to tell the business, factoring in initial appointments and communicating with the business on this, and later down the line, when you think you will need to start maternity leave, what are your company benefits. 

It can be challenging for lots of people in the early stages of pregnancy with every person being unique. 

For example, if you are struggling with severe morning sickness then this could be a reason why you would wish to tell your employer sooner. In terms of telling your employer, it’s actually anytime leading up to but no later than 15 weeks before your due date. 

There are lots of factors to take into consideration though, for me it was being very aware that the business is a small one and that I was conscious there needed to be a plan in place especially with me being the only full time consultant in the office and that would of course have an impact.

Lots of people tend to tell employers after their first scan, as this is normally a safe milestone in the pregnancy journey, but it is entirely up to you. I would definitely say to do what you feel is right.  

Planning for maternity leave

After initial appointments it’s a great opportunity to get together with your boss and chat through the plan for the coming months, especially to put yours and your employers mind at ease about the future and make things as straightforward as possible.

Will you need to train colleagues in specialist areas, will you be involved in recruitment for mat cover?

For me this time was quite unnerving as giving away some of my clients or responsibilities was very daunting but it’s something that you need to do for yourself, also for colleagues that need training and to be given the opportunity to develop professionally in your absence.

It is also worth speaking to your employer about the Maternity pay situation and anything else you may need to officially confirm to them.

To try and alleviate added stress in what is already an exciting but nerve-wracking time, it’s a good idea to have an idea as to how long you may want off and what your pay entitlements are. For example, if Statutory Maternity Pay only is applicable to you, what’s your plan around being off, have you thought about savings and putting money back?

You will no doubt be thinking of so many different things and sometimes even just getting through the day in the early stages, particularly if you are feeling really tired.

You will be given a MAT B1 form around your 20-week scan, this is something that you will need to make sure you give your employer a copy of as soon as you can. Around this time talk to your partner to get an idea of when you would like to finish and when your last working day would be.

Again, this can change, but it’s good for you and your employer to have a date in mind so you can work towards that date. Of course, these things don’t often go according to plan as you can’t mess with mother nature, but you get my drift.

Ultimately, it’s a big deal to you and your employer but it is also the most exciting time, so embrace every moment and be as open as you can be about your needs and how you are feeling but also how you can support the business.

Starting your family is such an important and exciting time in your life and your employer will want to support you wholeheartedly as we have here. It can be difficult to accept the absence and the effect on the business so having open honest conversations are really important.

If you’re an employee needing advice, we recommend ACAS. They are really helpful and have loads of information about maternity leave entitlement.