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Alternative to maternity leave... Would it work?

(21 Posts)
bigbutton Wed 06-Jul-11 14:21:27

My boss has known I'm pregnant for a good 20 weeks now (I'm 29 weeks), and hasn't arranged any cover or even found time to discuss it with me until yesterday. It's a small business, where no-one else has ever been pregnant in more than 25 years and he seems to be asking me how he should deal with it. He obviously assumed I'd only be off for a few weeks and now I've made it clear it's more likely to be months, I think he's panicking. I don't think he's trying to make me feel guilty for being off but that's the effect it's having.

Financially, I'm in a good enough position that I can (just) survive on SMP and don't have to return to work quickly. But I enjoy my job, and like the company, and I don't want my colleagues to suffer because I'm away.

I'm thinking about proposing to my boss that if he will put me on reduced pay for about 7 months (which would be more than SMP), I'd be prepared to do a bit of work from home, and keep all the jobs that only I can do ticking over. I could also come into work very occasionally if they needed me, assuming my mum was free for a bit of babysitting. However, I'm very wary about doing this for a number of reasons.

- We'd need to define exactly what I'll be prepared/expected to do, and limit it to a sensible amount, bearing in mind that my priority will be getting to know my baby and learning to cope with looking after it. I expect this to be pretty full time for quite a while, especially as I'd like to ebf for 6 months if I can.

- If I work at all, I'm pretty sure that I forfeit my right to maternity leave & SMP. What is to stop my boss changing his mind if things get busy at work, and saying I have to come back full time before I'm ready?

I'd prefer to get reduced pay rather than SMP but I'm just not that happy about giving up the protections offered by normal maternity leave and pay.

Also, given my boss' general lack of understanding of maternity issues, I'm pretty sure, he'll try to reclaim SMP from the government for the whole time I'm off. If we have this agreement where I'm actually, technically, working, doesn't that sort of mean I'll be indirectly committing benefit fraud? I'd really rather not do that.

Has anyone else worked out an agreement like this? Can it work, or would I be better sticking with SMP and leaving them to it whilst I'm off? I really don't know what the better choice is, and I'd appreciate any thoughts or advice.

MovingAndScared Wed 06-Jul-11 14:30:36

To be honest it sound like a really bad idea - you have no idea whether any work at all would be possible - it would work fine with some babies - others like my first there would be no way for the first few months -

can't he arrange cover- he still has a while to do it - in fact couldn't you offer to arrange it -eg do the recruitment process - if you offered say a 9 month contact in the current cliamate unless you have a very speclised role you could get some good candidates

unless of cousre you are planning on going on ML really early - which sound likes you are not planning to

you can work 10 keep in touch days on full pay while on ML

dontrunwithscissors Wed 06-Jul-11 14:59:46

My opinion? DON'T.DO.IT!

Businesses generally manage to survive in these situations. It's just that people are often happier to take the easiest solution - like you offering to effectively keep doing your job. Nobody's indispenable, and there are lots of people looking out for a job (even a temporary one) at the moment. You just don't need that hanging over you when you're in the middle of getting through the newborn stage. You just don't know how it will work out - the baby may not sleep, have colic, you might get postnatal depression. Hopefully it works out perfectly, and you have none of that to deal with. But, even then, you may find that breastfeeding and sleep deprivation completely kills your ability to think clearly for a few months. I suspect you may also end up resenting your work for drawing you away from concerns that seem far more important at the time - like figuring out breastfeeding.

Also, your boss sounds like he doesn't have a clue what it's like to have a baby. I really think that's a recipe for him putting far too much upon you. (Just through sheer ignorance.)

Keep repeating that it's not your problem. Help out with keeping in touch days, do what you can to train someone else up, but don't give up your rights. Of course, that's just my opinion, but I've been somewhere similar to where you are now, and I'm glad I stuck with taking official maternity leave.

bigbutton Wed 06-Jul-11 20:13:50

Thanks for your replies. You're both right, the thing that worries me most is that I don't know how I'll cope with being a mum. I just don't want another thing to be worrying about.

I've had a couple of developments...

My boss has come back to me with pretty much exactly the suggestion I described on here (paid above smp level but expected to do some work). We must have worked together too long - I bloody knew this'd be his solution to the whole thing. Boss clearly thinks he's come up with the ideal answer for everyone. He's made it clear that the alternative is basic smp, no enhanced package on offer without a commitment to work.

Dh has told me he thinks I should take the extra pay. He doesn't think I'll be expected to do much. But I'd have no defence against my boss changing his mind, would I? Dh says I'm worrying unnecessarily because "it's so unlikely".

I'm going to look more into taking someone on temporarily to cover some of my work and maybe suggest that. I have a bit of an unusual combination of skills but another pair of hands would probably lighten the load generally. Argh... why have I let it get to 29 weeks without dealing with this?

fluffles Wed 06-Jul-11 20:17:12

can you do the 'work' you're expected to do on your KIT days? i think you can have something like 10 KIT days (don't take my word for that) so maybe you could tell him you'd be working KIT one day a month for ten months?

allthefires Wed 06-Jul-11 20:19:01

Terrible idea!

allthefires Wed 06-Jul-11 20:19:40

Terrible idea!

bigbutton Wed 06-Jul-11 20:23:02

Yeah, the KIT days actually might be a big help. I thought there weren't enough but when you put it as one a month, it sounds more do-able.

I think i need to make a list of options with pros and cons. And then convince dh. And then convince boss. <sigh>

MotherPanda Wed 06-Jul-11 20:25:17

Don't commit to any work at all! You will feel obliged to do everything he calls up for.

I am also cocerned about your boss claiming for smp - as fluffles said, if this is the case you can legally work for 10 days (doesnt matter if you work 1 hour or 10, each day you work counts). Your boss can pay you smp, and pay you for these 10 days of work. could you offer to do two days work a month for 5 months, at full pay?

Please take your full leave entitlement! Don't feel guilty and force yourself to go into work early. This is very important precious time. He's not even allowed to ask you if you want to go back afterwards - by working through your leave then you are commiting to something you might not want.

Oh dear oh dear oh dear!

BikeRunSki Wed 06-Jul-11 20:31:55

Dreadful idea. You have no idea how you will find being a mum, what your baby will be like, if you will both be happy and healthy. Could you offer to take say 3 or 4 months Mat Leave full time, then reconsider with a view to possibly returning to work on reduced hours working up to full time over say 9 months to a year? (one day a week for a month; 2 days the following month or something).

FWIW, I took 13 months ML and was more than ready to go back to work. 2 friends of mine took 5 months and felt so guilty and missed their baby's development so dreadfully that second time around (now) they are both taking 12 months +.

bigbutton Wed 06-Jul-11 20:48:37

I couldn't put my finger on it before but I think i would feel obliged to do everything he picked up the phone for. Part of the problem is that, on top of my own job, I do a lot of stuff that my boss thinks he is coping with fabulously all by himself. He goes on a lot of holidays and pops in and out of the office, and I'm not sure it occurs to him how the company runs when he's away.

I think that when I'm not there, he'll start to have trouble and the phonecalls will get more and more frequent. I can't explain this to him because I don't think he'd appreciate hearing that I don't think he does his own job.

trixymalixy Wed 06-Jul-11 20:52:38

Do not do it. It can only end in tears.

northerngirl41 Wed 06-Jul-11 21:19:14

I know you are trying to do him a favour, but really you'll be utterly screwing him if you have the baby and for some reason are unable to do the tasks "that only you know how to do". Explain it to him that way and make him realise that you could have every intention of coming back to work ASAP but that it's out of your hands.

You need to start documenting your role and to find a suitable replacement. Start off by writing down the process for every task you do on a regular basis as you do them. Have a Word doc on your desktop and add to it when you find yourself doing one of those tasks.

He needs to go talk to the FSB or similar and find out what help there is out there for small businesses.

bigbutton Wed 06-Jul-11 21:46:47

So it's pretty much a consensus on it being a very bad plan. That was my gut feeling but it really helps to hear it from impartial people. I've started a bit of a "how to" manual as you suggested northerngirl14 but I'm going to put a lot more time into it. I've been so worried about being fair to work but it feels like by compromising I won't be being fair to anyone. The one thing I don't want is for my baby to lose out in any way.

MovingAndScared Wed 06-Jul-11 21:50:18

glad we could help -and hate to add something else to the mix but are you planning to go back full time? Cos if you are not you might want to start getting your boss up to speed on that kind of thing as well!

bigbutton Wed 06-Jul-11 21:59:18

Oh flipping heck. That's going to be a whole other conversation. He'll faint if I bring it up while we're dealing with this. I had hoped to go back to work part time at first but I'm not sure it'll go down well. My boss has expressed the opinion in the past that no job could possibly be done part time or remotely.

As I see it, if we had more staff, I coud easily do the more specialised parts of my job in three or four days a week. I've just got to work out how to get that across.

MotherPanda Thu 07-Jul-11 13:41:25

Your Boss has a statutory duty to consider your request for flexible (part time) working under the amended Employment Rights Act 1996. Under this act, all parents can request a change in their working hours to help care for a child under 16. Employers are not allowed to blankly refuse this request unless there is a very good reason for doing so.

see the link here for your rights -

Please think about whats best for you and your baby, dont feel sorry for your boss or put pressure on yourself to take on (more) work. Leave everything blank. No commitments, On your last day, just say goodbye and that you'll be on touch.

You just can't know how you'll want to work, or if you will want to at all untill you have your baby to look after - and baby comes first during that year, thats why the leave is there!

StillSquiffy Thu 07-Jul-11 15:30:31

I wouldn't get too het up about either thing.

If it were me (and I know what it's like - my DH runs his own companies), I would do the following:-

1) agree to coming in on the KIT days on the strict understanding that you will not pick up the phone to him on any other days and that he needs to agree to this. If it all falls apart then that is good news, as he will be very keen for you to come back when the time comes to it.

2) Leave the part time thing till later. In a small organisation where they don't really have HR and the like, I would personally 'sneak' into a part time position by default. EG, when you are ready to come back, I'd say that the KIT days aren't really enough to cover the essential work, and that now that you feel happier about coping with baby, how about you sign off the SMP and start off just 2 days a week for the timebeing (or whatever)? That way the whole flexi workign thing will drop in by default.

Normally I am all for doing everything by the book and formally, but in this instance I think that won't help you much in this situation.

bigbutton Tue 23-Aug-11 15:51:18

Just thought I'd post a quick update to this thread. I'm now 36 weeks pregnant. After our discussions in July, my boss just got vaguer and vaguer on the subject of maternity pay until I gave up asking.

I'm now working on the assumption that I'll get SMP only. He did have the cheek to ask me again how long I was planning to be off. I (very pleasantly) told him that the dates of my OML and AML are in the letter I gave him in May but that I could look them up if he needs them.

I haven't had any official acknowledgement of my letter and MATB1 form.

The boss has, however, found time to announce a blanket payrise of a couple of % for everyone as from today. How lovely. Probably not a great help to me if I'm on on SMP though.

Or maybe he's just going to leave me on full pay through my maternity leave grin

Can anyone tell me if there's any actual requirement for my boss to notify me of how much he's planning to pay me?

higgle Tue 23-Aug-11 16:37:29

I'm not quite sure why everyone thought it was such a bad idea to negotiate a solution tht might suit you and your boss. I took 9 weeks off with my first son and 8 with the second and was absoloutely bored out of my skull, and desperate to get back.

Ellypoo Wed 24-Aug-11 11:32:29

Hiya! Am in a slightly similar situation - also work for a small company in a very specialised role.
I decided what I intended/hoped to do before I told my boss I was pg - basically will take 5 months off but work the 2/3 KIT days each month to keep my eye on things and to do the things that only I can do. These worked days will be paid at my normal daily rate, on top of the SMP (this is legal).
In terms of them telling you what they are going to pay you/what you are entitled to, if they don't have a maternity policy then assume it is SMP unless you have agreed otherwise but I would arrange to speak to him again, explaining that you need to know exactly what is going to happen, and also to arrange a handover for your replacement - you could also agree exactly what (if anything) you would be doing if you are to continue working during your mat leave.
Also, the blanket % payrise will be taken into account when calculating the first 6 wks of your SMP at 90%, and be there for your paid KIT days (if you use them), and for when you return from mat leave, so I wouldn't turn your nose up at it!!!

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