In-Depth Guide to Changing Jobs While on Maternity Leave
Maternity leave usually consists of taking several months off work for women who have recently had a baby. Some women choose not to go back to the same job. Others decide not to go back to work at all.
So, what can you expect from switching jobs after maternity leave? Knowing the possible risks and potential rewards can help you to decide if changing careers after having a baby is right for you.
You shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to switch jobs or not going back to work after maternity leave. Many women might go into maternity leave thinking they’ll return to work. But, once a baby is born, it can change a lot of things.
The important thing is making sure you make the right decision for you and your family. You also need to handle quitting your job or switching careers the right way. Handling this kind of transition correctly will make it easier on everyone and will make it easier to eventually find a job later if you choose to go back to work.
Resigning during maternity leave isn’t uncommon for women who want to spend more time with their new baby, or those who are thinking about a career change. Knowing how to prepare this transition and go through with it while you’re already on leave can help with some of your guilt and give you more confidence in your decision.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Using Maternity Leave to Change Your Career
- 1.1 How Long is Maternity Leave?
- 1.2 Not Returning to Work After Maternity Leave
- 1.3 Handing in Your Notice During Maternity Leave
- 1.4 Staying on Good Terms with Your Place of Employment
- 1.5 Job Hunting While on Maternity Leave
- 1.6 Job Hunting While Pregnant
- 1.7 Can You Take a Second Job While on Maternity Leave?
- 1.8 Can I Work as Self-Employed While on Maternity Leave?
- 1.9 Do You Have to Pay Maternity Back if You Leave Your Job?
- 1.10 Getting Fired While on Maternity Leave
- 1.11 Adjusting to Not Working While on Maternity Leave
- 1.12 Finding a Job After Maternity Break
Using Maternity Leave to Change Your Career
This guide will focus on how you can successfully change careers during and after your maternity leave. We’ll also go over some things you should know about quitting your job and not going back to work after your leave.
Whatever decision you make about the future of your work experience, it needs to be done the right way from a professional and personal standpoint. Let’s look at what you can expect from each situation and how you can seamlessly make a career change after having a baby.
How Long is Maternity Leave?
In the U.S., there isn’t a set maternity leave length. It is typically set by the employer. On average, most employers allow women at least 12 weeks of leave. Some allow more. Unfortunately, in many cases, the entire period isn’t covered, financially. Again, this depends on the company, but your employer isn’t required to pay you your full salary while on leave.
This makes many women consider changing jobs, leaving jobs, or working for themselves either during or after their maternity leave. Knowing more about those options can help you to remain financially stable as you bring a new baby into the world.
Not Returning to Work After Maternity Leave
Even if you love your job, it’s not uncommon to think about quitting during or after your maternity leave. You’re going through a lot of life changes, and that can also change your opinion on whether you want to work.
Resigning during maternity leave is a valuable option for many women, but it’s not something that should be done without a lot of thought and preparation. There are questions you should ask yourself when you’re considering whether you should stay at your current place of employment.
Some things you might want to think about include:
- Am I happy with my current job?
- Do I want to leave, or do I want to extend my time away?
- Would I be financially secure if I quit my job?
- What is my five-year plan?
- Will I ever want to return to work in the future?
You can probably think of many more questions to ask yourself if you’re considering leaving the workforce after maternity leave. The questions you’ll want to ask yourself should be personal, and a reflection of what you want.
Handing in Your Notice During Maternity Leave
If you’ve made the decision that you’re going to leave your job after maternity leave, you’ll have to hand in your notice at some point. Many people struggle with the ethics of this particular situation. There’s no need to feel guilty about leaving your job, but it needs to be done the right way.
There are a few tips you can use to resign from your job with tact and grace:
- Be aware of timing when you plan on quitting. If you know ahead of your leave that you won’t be coming back, give your notice right away. When you decide to quit your job, try to give them as much notice as possible. Waiting until you have a week or so left of your leave can cause problems and may make you feel worse about quitting.
- Ideally, you should give a minimum of two weeks notice to your employer if you don’t plan on coming back.
- Speak to your manager or boss in person, if possible, about your resignation. This is the most ethical and professional approach. If you can’t talk to them in person, a phone call is the next best option. Try to avoid things like quitting over email. An email resignation is appropriate in certain situations. But, if you didn’t give any indication before leaving that you planned on quitting, it can come across as rude and unprofessional during a maternity leave.
The key to resigning while on maternity leave is to avoid making anyone angry or appearing unprofessional. Keep in mind that things can change. You may think you want to quit now, but you might find that you miss the work. Or, you might find you need the financial security, benefits, etc. Keeping on good terms with your place of employment is always a good idea and can help you to get your job back later if you decide that’s what you want.
Staying on Good Terms with Your Place of Employment
As we said above, it’s important not to burn bridges if you know you’re going to quit your job while you’re on maternity leave. Aside from giving your employer plenty of notice, there are a few more things you can do to be more ethical if you decide to quit.
By incorporating some of these tactics into your resignation, you can stay on good terms with your employer. That way, if you ever want to return to work (even in a few years), there won’t be any hard feelings between you and the company. You’ll be more likely to get your job back if you leave on good terms.
With that in mind, be sure to do the following as you prepare to leave your job:
- Help your employer with the transition to find your replacement. You might be a part of the interview process for the new hire, and you can even offer to come in for a few hours to train them once they’re hired.
- Make a document with any critical information your replacement may need to know. This should include everything from your daily responsibilities to things like account passwords, etc.
- As you leave, make sure you don’t say anything negative about the company itself, your co-workers, or your boss. Remember, there’s always a possibility you’ll want to come back. Staying on good terms can make your transition back into the workforce much easier.
- Give the company back anything that may belong to them. Don’t take things like office supplies, etc. You should also give back nametags, keys, and anything else that might be considered company property.
Job Hunting While on Maternity Leave
Some women want to continue to work after maternity leave but may be more interested in a different job. Using maternity leave to change your career has its pros and cons to consider.
The most important thing you can do while looking for a new job is to consider what it is you’re looking for. There is probably a good reason why you’re looking for something new instead of going back to your old job. What do you want to be different? What matters most to you? These ideas can change for a lot of women when they start thinking about what they’ll need once their baby is born.
Maybe you want a job with a flexible schedule or one that is close to a quality daycare. Perhaps you want more consistent hours or no longer want to work a 9-5 routine. Whatever the case, you now have to consider what will make you happy and what will make your life easier with a new baby.
Job Hunting While Pregnant
If you know early on in your pregnancy that you’re going to want to switch careers, don’t wait to get started on your search. The earlier, the better. Not only will you have more time and energy to focus on getting a new job, but if you get hired, you’ll have some time to settle in before having the baby.
Keep in mind that even though it’s illegal, some employers won’t hire you if you’re visibly pregnant. This is considered discrimination, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. While you can try to take action against that employer, it can take a lot of time, effort, and money to do so.
It can also be hard to prove that your pregnancy was the reason for your rejection. By starting your search earlier in your pregnancy, you won’t be ‘showing’ as much. This will give the employer a chance to focus more on what you can do, rather than your current situation.
Can You Take a Second Job While on Maternity Leave?
If you want to work for another employer during your maternity leave, it’s best to talk to your current employer about it. Some women want a little extra money during their time off, so they might get a part-time job to make up the difference.
Every company has their own policy when it comes to working elsewhere. It’s usually stated in the company contract. Most companies don’t often have a problem allowing their employees to take on a second job somewhere as long as it doesn’t affect their full-time work. It would be considered discrimination if your employer made a new ‘clause’ just for those on maternity leave.
Some employers don’t care how much you work for a second job. Others have clearly-written rules about it in the company policy handbooks. It’s understandable to want to make more money while you’re on leave, but to keep your job secure (if you plan on going back), try to review the company policies. If you’re still unsure, talk to your boss about your situation and why you’re looking for extra work outside the company.
Can I Work as Self-Employed While on Maternity Leave?
If you don’t want to go back to a regular job or get a different job, you might look into self-employment while on maternity leave. This gives many mothers the option of working from home and setting their own schedule. Plus, thanks to all the advancements in technology, working from home is easier than ever.
But, getting paid as a freelancer or self-employed person on maternity leave has its own set of rules. Unfortunately, many people either don’t know about their options, or they fail to opt for them.
If you are already self-employed, look into Employment Insurance. This gives self-employed people the chance to tap into some of the same benefits others do when it comes to maternity leave. To be eligible for some of these benefits, you have to register ahead of time – up to 12 months. So, it’s a good idea to get started while you’re planning for your family, and not once you’re already pregnant.
Programs like this aren’t for everyone. They do require you pay into them and they have premiums that must be met. But, they can be worth looking into for certain freelancers who want to receive an income once their baby is born.
If you already have a job and want to take on some freelance work at home while on leave, that’s a different story. In most cases, it’s no different than taking on a second job. You should always talk to your company and your boss about taking on any extra work from home. Some companies allow it, while others do not. You may even be allowed to work a set number of extra hours each week, etc. But, you don’t want to go behind your business’ back if you ever plan on returning.
Do You Have to Pay Maternity Back if You Leave Your Job?
Always read the fine print of your employee handbook or talk to your HR manager before going on maternity leave. If you decide to leave your job on leave, you may have to pay back some of your benefits. Your company may also have the right to ask for reimbursement on your health insurance payments if you don’t come back.
Even if you do go back, keep in mind that maternity leave pay isn’t without its drawbacks. If you work for a company that privately-funds your maternity leave, it’s just like getting a paycheck. The money you make during that time is taxable.
Sadly, it isn’t always a good situation for women who want to leave their job after maternity leave. This is because there can be drawbacks and penalties involved. Again, it’s best to check with your job and figure out what their rules are about maternity leave and short-term disability leave.
Doing your research will help to protect you and ensure you’re doing everything the right way to get as many benefits as possible.
Getting Fired While on Maternity Leave
Unfortunately, getting fired from your current place of employment can happen at almost any time. That includes during your pregnancy or even shortly after you’ve had your baby. If you do get fired while you’re on maternity leave, you may have some rights.
The best thing you can do is to research those rights through the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This act and other federal laws explain what your rights are while you’re pregnant and on maternity leave. If your job can prove you were fired for other valid reasons, it can be hard to make a case against them.
But, if you think your place of employment violated a law in firing you, contact an attorney. You may be able to reach a settlement agreement since it would be considered discrimination to fire a pregnant woman.
Adjusting to Not Working While on Maternity Leave
Whether you choose to take your leave before your baby is born or after, your life is about to change. For your own well-being, it’s a good idea to give yourself some transition time between working full-time and staying home. This is true whether you decide to eventually go back to work, get a new job, or stay home permanently.
Here are a few tips to help make things easier for you when you’re adjusting to life at home:
- Stick to a schedule: Maintaining a routine can give you a sense of comfort and make you feel calmer. Not only is that important for you, but it’s essential for your new child. Your routine doesn’t have to be the same as it was when you worked every day. But, it should be consistent from now on. Having a routine (especially in the mornings) can start your day on the right foot and make it easier.
- Stay active in your career: This doesn’t mean you need to keep in touch with your place of employment. But, it can be beneficial to keep in touch with old co-workers, to see what’s going on. If you ever do plan on returning to work or a new job, pay attention to that particular industry and any changes it may be going through.
- Find support: Even with a solid schedule, your life will be different with a baby around. While on maternity leave, it’s easy to feel alone and almost as though no one else is going through what you’re going through. Finding a support group to help you through this new transition can make a big difference. Friends and family offer great support. But, if you can find a specific group of new moms going through the same thing after leaving their jobs, that’s even better!
- Find new interests: Having a baby can spark creativity and inspiration in you that you may have never found otherwise. It’s a great time to explore new interests and opportunities in your life. During this time, you might be considering whether you’ll go back to work. Exploring your interests and passions further might make you decide on a different career path.
Getting used to being on maternity leave can feel like a full-time job on its own for a while! But, by using some of these tips, you can make the transition easier. Once you do get into a rhythm and routine, you mind find that it’s easier to decide whether you want to go back to work or find a new job.
Finding a Job After Maternity Break
We hope this guide has given you some peace of mind about how your career can change when you’re on maternity leave. The decision to go back to work, find a new job, or stay at home is completely up to you. But, there are some rules and ethical guidelines you should follow no matter what.
If you do decide to go back to work or find a new job after your maternity break, following those rules will make it easier on you. Maintaining a professional attitude even while you’re on leave will reflect positively on you, especially in a new position.
You should also know your rights when it comes to a maternity break, and what you can expect from your employer. Do your research ahead of time about what your company offers to expectant mothers. You should know how much time you’ll get off, how much you’ll get paid, and any other benefits you may be entitled to.
By doing your homework about maternity leave at your job, you can make a more informed decision about what the best option might be for you, and your new baby.