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Urgently need to find a way to start maternity leave early - what are my options?

(43 Posts)
pecanpie Tue 04-Oct-11 23:00:06

I am 33 weeks pregnant. I recently had to dismiss my nanny and am coming to the end of the 2 weeks of emergency childcare which were workable. Things become a lot more complicated from next week when I have to juggle school runs (more than doubling the walking I have to do) and picking up hours at home in the evenings to make up for those I can't do while I'm in the office. Thinking rationally, I don't actually believe that this is going to work, despite help from DH where he is able to (he has a high pressure job and sometimes works out of town/country). I don't think I will get to work on time to do the shortened hours I have suggested (I am late to and from wok at the moment because of the walking I need to do) and I am too tired to pick up any work from home once DDs are in bed. This is a very late night for me, simply because I am trying to explore my options.

I have a medical problem due to the nature of which may (I really have no idea) have some effect on the baby. I haven't been able to seek medical attention for in the past 3 weeks because given the way the next 3 weeks will pan out, I haven't felt comfortable taking more time off work. I do work part time (3.5 days) but the remaining time has been taken up with religious commitments, medical appointments for DD1 and upcoming antenatal appointments (where I hope to solve the medical issue I am worried about - if a little late in the day). I am also just generally stressed because of the juggling at this stage of my pregnancy and because other hurdles keep constantly coming up.

I did ask my line manager if it was feasible for me to take maternity leave 3 weeks early, the 3 weeks coming up which I just don't believe are manageable physically, never mind stress wise. Her response was that my resource is needed until I was due to finish, hence my ridiculous plan to overdo things which really will not work/will end up with me being signed off for stress at the very least.

I have asked HR for a meeting, but would like to be prepared with solutions rather than problems. Am I entitled to start my leave early or will I just need to struggle through the next 3 weeks? Is my employer required to help me in any way other than providing flexible working?

I genuinely want to return to my job next year and don't want to appear unhelpful, lacking in commitment etc, but if I'd foreseen half of these problems, of course I would have planned in leave sooner...

Well you could get yourself signed off sick, and then your maternity leave would kick in automatically at 36 weeks.

I thought employers were supposed to have to be flexible about when you started mat leave?

lisad123 Tue 04-Oct-11 23:09:41

you can get signed off by GP if stress is too much, any time you take 1 week off after 29 weeks, HR can ask you to start MAT leave

lisad123 Tue 04-Oct-11 23:10:15

does your LOs school not have an afterschool/breakfast club?

pecanpie Tue 04-Oct-11 23:18:03

Was hoping there was another way to finish earlier (e.g. for there to be some employer obligation to consider it) - I don't really want to be signed off for stress. I was aware that pregnancy related illness after 29/30 weeks would automatically sign me off, but despite the physical impact on my health, I am just concerned as to how it appears to my employer to be signed off for stress.

And Lisad - no after school or breakfast club. It's a v small school which starts relatively early anyway, plus most mums either don't work or have live in childcare (or family nearby which we don't)

LaurieFairyCake Tue 04-Oct-11 23:21:59

Hire an emergency nanny?

And seriously, you need to go to the docs as a priority - no other commitments are as important

LadyLapsang Tue 04-Oct-11 23:23:36

Can't you and your husband cover 11 days between you by taking holiday? Surely you should cut down on your out of hours commitments and see your GP / midwife on your non-working days. Obviously if your doctor thinks you are not well enought to work s/he will sign you off sick but it sounds like it's more a case of covering childcare / trying to do too much.

Northernlurker Tue 04-Oct-11 23:27:01

Screw what work think. Your health comes first. You sound exhausted. Your right to return next year is protected. Get signed off and concentrate on your health and your baby.

KatieMiddleton Tue 04-Oct-11 23:31:31

Employers are entitled to expect 28 days notice of changes to maternity leave dates. The exception to this is where someone is too unwell to be at work or their work environment is unsafe for a pregnant worker.

You can start maternity leave from the 11th week before the start of the week the baby is due. So you could go now but for the 28 days notice.

I think you need to think very carefully about how you approach this particularly if you plan to return to your job. From what you've said it's not your pregnancy that's the issue but your childcare arrangements. Your employer has given you two weeks to sort this out but you haven't found a solution. If I was your boss I'd be pretty hacked off to be honest.

I think you have two options:

1. Sort out your childcare to take the pressure off you and get your dh to step up a bit. They're his children too.

2. Apologise profusely to your employer and hold your hands up. You are in a mess and can't cope with work, pregnancy and your current childcare obligations. Say you are so worried it's making you ill and you would like to start your maternity leave as soon as possible. Offer to do whatever's necessary to make the hand over as smooth as possible. Even if it means getting an emergency nanny at your own expense or something else.

Have you exhausted all the childcare options? Emergency nannies, sharing a nanny with another family, seeing if a local childminder can help, contacting local college to see if any of their childcare students could use a few hours work, post an as on local university's job board are just some of the things you could do.

If your employer refuses to cooperate you can request unpaid parental leave of up to 4 weeks for one if your existing children if they are aged under 5 years old and you have more than one year's service. Do you have any annual leave you could take?

AnyoneButLulu Tue 04-Oct-11 23:31:52

Beg a favour from a school run mum, or hire an emergency nanny, or just feign D&V and take a day off sick and get to your doctor as a matter of emergency.
Everything else comes second, but investigate getting an emergency nanny to do school run, or begging another parent to help (perhaps by sharing their childcare and paying them, or owing them a big childcare favour in a few months time.

Just wanted to say that the legislation changed a few years ago, and maternity leave can only be enforced now at 36 weeks, not 29 if you go off sick for a pregnancy related reason.

I agree that you need to make your health your primary focus, and that work and other commitments need to take a back seat for the time being.

piprabbit Tue 04-Oct-11 23:35:35

You have older children so could you take a couple of weeks parental leave (though it would be unpaid) on the grounds that you don't have childcare due to nanny leaving?

KatieMiddleton Tue 04-Oct-11 23:36:20

Sorry I think I've got it wrong. You've not been off for two weeks have you?

Seriously you must get to the doctor if you suspect you have a condition that may affect the baby. Everything else comes second to you and your baby's health.

KatieMiddleton Tue 04-Oct-11 23:37:50

You cannot be forced before 36 weeks but you could mutually agree to start m leave early rather than taking sick leave.

pecanpie Wed 05-Oct-11 00:09:34

I have been at work for the past 2 weeks with an emergency nanny who isn't available going forward. I've also made the best arrangements possible with childminders and other mums for the next few weeks - including half term week- but thanks for the advice on how I could be doing better. I am committed to my job, hence I wanted to know my legal/contractual position/rights and posted on this board to get a professional opinion. Professionally speaking, unless the physical stress I am under at the moment is sufficient enough a reason to be signed off - struggling to walk and stand because of the pregnancy which is making me exhausted- I have no option but to continue on my revised work schedule, potentially taking the hours I was going to make up in the evenings unpaid.

piprabbit Wed 05-Oct-11 00:16:43

I'm not clear what advice you are looking for.
Are you looking for ways to stop working (without taking ML) to care for your children and maybe get your health concerns investigated?
Or are you looking for alternative sources of childcare which would enable you to continue working until you begin ML?

pecanpie Wed 05-Oct-11 00:17:28

Katiemiddleton, option 2 is where I have been (except with only 1 day off to cover nanny not turning up for work which contributed to her being fired) - the problem is that the current solution just isn't working and is only adding to physical exhaustion

You sound like you are at the end of your tether, which I understand, but you need to prioritise. Work, children, health - which order?

I'm also not clear what you are looking for here, people have given you various options.

KatieMiddleton Wed 05-Oct-11 00:20:31

You've had my professional opinion. And also my opinion as a mum who's had a childcare failure and got advice from other mums.

Look, you don't need to be a martyr about this. Tell work. They can either work with you to find a solution or run the risk you'll make yourself too ill for work. Either way it's no good for anybody but especially you and your baby.

The parental leave request needs 21 days notice too usually but like all things exceptions can be made by mutual agreement.

A planned absence is better than an unplanned one. Please don't struggle on until something awful happens.

If you are that tired then you must stop work.

KatieMiddleton Wed 05-Oct-11 00:28:54

Ok, if I was your boss (tbh your boss should be looking out for your welfare in the first instance) these are the questions I'd ask.

Q. Are you fit to be at work?

Answer yes can you commit to doing what we need you to do including timekeeping etc? And if so can we make any adjustments to help you?

Answer no Then you need to stay at home. How do you want to do this? Will you be better in a few days? A week? If not then do you want to take sick leave or start maternity early.

<And then I'd go for a short walk to work out how the hell I'm going to cover you and come back with my plan of action>

pecanpie Wed 05-Oct-11 00:44:34

Thanks katiem. Some good advice on the work perspective so I can have a rational discussion with hr hopefully tomorrow. I love my job and don't want to burn any bridges, but don't want to make myself ill trying to do it, which is why I wanted to explore options. Thanks again for your constructive advice.

KatieMiddleton Wed 05-Oct-11 00:48:08

You're welcome smile Hope it goes well tomorrow.

QBEE Wed 05-Oct-11 01:57:00

I do not understand why you have prioritised religious commitments over the health of your unborn child? I ask this in ignorance rather than accusation btw as I have no idea what these commitments may be.

Ask your dh to step up, what has he done to help solve this?

Is there anyone else at work/nursery/school with whom you could nanny share temporarily?

EttiKetti Wed 05-Oct-11 04:51:28

If you work 3.5 hours, that's around 22/week. Why not spread these hours over 5 shorter days for the remainder of your time, to enable school.runs?

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