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Extending mat leave beyond a year?

(19 Posts)
needsadviceplease Tue 30-Oct-12 06:19:01

I'm halfway through a year's mat leave. I'm fairly certain I don't want to go back when I'm due to - my son has always been particularly clingy, I think he'd struggle to be without me all day, he'll likely be my only baby so I don't want to miss more of his development than I have to, and I'm a single parent so tbf it's easier and financially viable to stay at home.

What I'd ideally like is to extend my leave by a year. I like my job and feel that when he is 2 it will feel 'right' for DS to go into childcare. How likely is it my workplace will consider this? Unfortunately I work in a fairly small (but v well run) voluntary sector org and don't have an HR dept to speak with theoretically - the HR person is in fact my line manager, with whom I have a good working relationship, but even so - she's my line manager, and her chief concern (rightly) is the operational needs of the org.

Is it worth asking? And at what point? I'm inclined to leave it as late as possible (ie a little over 8 weeks) as I'd prefer them to make me redundant first, which is unlikely but not altogether impossible. If I can't extend my leave I think I will almost certainly hand in my notice, and look for something else when I am ready to leave DS. Whatever I do I am keen to maintain a good relationship with my employer and colleagues.


TheDoctrineOfSnatch Tue 30-Oct-12 06:37:06

Is your current job being covered by a new person?

Has anyone at your work ever taken a sabbatical?

Do you have a DH/DP who could also take some extended leave?

needsadviceplease Tue 30-Oct-12 09:19:14

Thanks for replying. Yes, recruited new person to cover. Nobody taken a sabbatical before to my knowledge. No DP.

I'm thinking it wouldn't harm the org at all to simply extend my leave and extend the contract of mat cover person - but perhaps I'm being blinkered? Fwiw I'm in a fairly general admin role, so no significant 'de-skilling'that I can see...

Rockchick1984 Tue 30-Oct-12 09:22:38

You would be asking for a career break / sabbatical, larger organisations tend to have a policy on these however it's unlikely there's a set policy in a small company.

I presume you are aware that it would be unpaid if you take a career break? Have you worked out if you could afford to not work for 12 months? I'm unsure if you would be entitled to the same benefits, I'd suggest speaking to CAB to see what help (if any) you would get smile

reastie Tue 30-Oct-12 09:26:23

It's worth an ask - you have nothing to lose. I came on this board a few months ago asking similar questions re: sabbatical. In the end I didn't ask work, I stuck it out. Do you know the person who is filling in for you at work? Could you informally ask them if they might be prepared to continue for another year? Then you could go to your line manager and say temp would be prepared to cover for you so you're not throwing obstacles in the path for them. You may want to go in on an occasional basis over that year though, depending on what your job is, just to keep up to date and help you back in when you do return.

economistextra Tue 30-Oct-12 09:30:45

Where I work a sabbatical can't be used for childcare, it has to be for travelling, voluntary work etc.

Parental leave is for childcare and I believe all companies have to give it (check government website) but I believe the most parental leave you are allowed per year is four weeks. Good luck!

janey68 Tue 30-Oct-12 10:24:18

No harm in asking for a sabbatical if you can afford to take one. It wouldn't be an extension of ML though as it sounds like you already plan to take the maximum ML

I notice you are only halfway through your ML though so why not wait and see how you feel? You may feel quite differently when your child is approaching a year, toddling about. Equally, if you stay off 2 years, you may not feel any more 'ready' then. At the moment you are just speculating that 2 years seems the 'right' time. I know mums who were back at work within 3 or 6 months and were fine, and equally I know mums whose youngest child is in school yet they are still struggling with the idea of getting back to work and using childcare. So I don't think it's about the age; it's the mindset.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Tue 30-Oct-12 14:42:02

I agree with the above - it isn't an extension of maternity leave, it's a separate request. The person covering you may or may not want to extend and once the protection of maternity leave drops away, they may consider it less disruptIve to keep your cover on permanently. They also need to be mindful of the employment rights of your cover, which I believe increase with increased tenure.

Btw I do know someone who did this but her boss really wanted her back!

If your alternative to this is quitting, then you have nothing to lose be exploring the option.

needsadviceplease Tue 30-Oct-12 16:09:40

Thanks for all this - useful food for thought. Will def wait and see how things are nearer the time, and will probably pay a visit to the CAB soonish too.

Unfortunately I don't know the cover well enough to ask her directly I don't think, but based on what she said during the handover period I think she'd likely be willing to stay another year. Good point about the implications of her increasing tenure though.

I wish this country had longer maternity leave. I know it's loads better than lots of other places, but even so...

Madelinethepumpkin Wed 31-Oct-12 10:42:51

I would definitely wait and see how you feel, your six month old will probably seem a lot more able to cope at a year. And you may be tearing your hair out by then wink

Is part time and option or a staggered back-to-work? You could probably use your saved leave for 6 months to work a 4 day week... CTC will cover most if your childcare.

Tbh - the "it's more financially viable to not work because I'm a single parent" is a misconception IMO, in the short term, yes, but in the long term, not really.

Good luck with it all and give your emotions a little break for now and enjoy your baby x

izzywizzyisbizzy Wed 31-Oct-12 10:47:33

You are thinking career break and my advice as a manager is to ask sooner rather than later - they are more likely to say yes if you give them time to plan it and source a replacement.

needsadviceplease Wed 31-Oct-12 13:07:05

izzywizzy - argh! Absolutely right, and what a spanner in the works.

Ohhhh, I don't know what to do. Thanks, again.

Rockchick1984 Wed 31-Oct-12 13:24:32

How easy would it be to get back into a similar role a few years down the line if you handed in your notice? That was one of the biggest considerations for me about becoming a SAHM, as I know that if I took a few years out there would be loads of people lined up to fill the roles that appeared who had up to date experience or more recent qualifications, so I will struggle to get back into work. Obviously at the moment you are just thinking about a career break but am thinking about if they said no, what your options will be smile

Murtette Wed 31-Oct-12 20:09:41

When DD was 9mo I asked for a 3 month extension to my year's maternity leave as I didn't think I'd be ready to go back to work when she was 11.5 mo. My reasons for this were that I just didn't feel ready but I also had the practical considerations that she was still feeding twice during the night so I was knackered, I had a 1hr commute each way so it was a long day and I would be going back to a full on job which often required evening & weekend work. They gave it to me and by the time I went back, I was desperate to go back! There is a world of difference between entertaining a 6mo and a 15mo. Unless your DS is particularly mobile, he's presumably fairly stationary at the moment, happy to go out & about with you sitting in his pushchair and generally slot into your life. By the time he's 15mo and racing around destroying everything in your path, its very different! Also, all of the friends I'd made during mat leave went back after the year so suddenly I had no one to go to toddler groups with, meet in the park or for a coffee etc. I remember on frosty January morning being in the park by myself for the second day in a row knowing I had no plans for the rest of the day other than the supermarket shop and nothing on the next day either.
Another thing to bear in mind is that if you return after your maternity leave, you're entitled to return to the same job, same conditions etc (or pretty much - I'm sure there are some employment lawyers on here who could advise you) whereas if you take a period of unpaid leave, you won't be entitled to that.
Is it possible instead for you to return on a part time basis in any shape or form?

needsadviceplease Wed 31-Oct-12 21:48:14

Ooh. Still so much more to think about, thanks.

My job is office mgnt - I am very good at it (imo and from what feedback I have had), but I do get that a lot of others are too. I'm fairly easily replaced and the competition for similar roles is stiff, simply in terms of numbers. I do like my particular job, colleagues etc, but it is very much a job I fell into along the way and not a career, and I'm happy with that. I'm in my final year of a (part-time) unrelated BSc, so there's a potential context - and opportunity - for change after I finish that anyway.

I'm really really aware of not yet knowing what DS and I will need at 12m+ - I'm just trying to balance that against needing to give at least 2mths notice to work, or possibly longer if that's viable. Difficult.

Rockchick - what swayed it for you in the end, becoming a SAHM?

I should probably lay my cards completely on the table here - I've been oddly reluctant to, out of fear it'd identify me, but I don't think that's seriously likely really:
Ideal world, I'd like to go straight on to a full-time MSc, ie to start next Sept when DS will be nearly 18mo. In this ideal world, obviously I will be awarded funding. My vague plan is to aim towards this and work out plan b as I go, as I need to.
I really genuinely don't want to screw work over, but I am obviously trying to keep that particular option open to me. My mat leave finishes end April, I would find out whether I got onto the MSc end Jan, and whether I got funding in May.
Really I need to magically work out whether the MSc thing is just a total pipe dream (probably) and if so, let go of it. With that out of the picture, though, I'm still left feeling that I won't be ready/nearly ready to leave DS at 12mo, and would happily lose the job rather than go back before being ready. Part-time though would be a worthwhile option and one I think they'd be happy to at least consider.

RyleDup Wed 31-Oct-12 22:15:46

I took a 2 year career break after my mat leave with dc2. Theres no harm in asking. If they so no then you quit or go back.

Rockchick1984 Wed 31-Oct-12 23:21:00

Needs the things which swayed me into becoming a SAHM were that my hours could be unpredictable at work and so can DH's so childcare would have been a bit of a nightmare to arrange; I had build up a good support network of other SAHM's (would be a very different experience if I didn't have this, and not particularly enjoyable). My DS ha always been happy to socialise with other children in small groups however he doesn't like larger groups, and is quite sensitive to loud noise etc and although I knew he would get used to it if I put him in nursery, I didn't want to force him to adapt if it was avoidable.

Also, short term it didn't make a massive difference financially if I was working. By the time we paid out for childcare, plus the costs associated with my car and fuel to get to work, we weren't much worse off anyway! We got rid of my car as I am walking distance into town, good bus service if I want to go further afield, and am happy to load the pram up with shopping and put DS in a sling if I go to the supermarket smile

The best things for me about this have been seeing every development - I know DS better than anyone (including my husband). He is such a loving child, his confidence has come on in leaps and bounds despite not going to nursery and I know that's all because of me and how I am choosing to raise him. He is almost always happy, will chatter to anyone, can entertain himself or will play alongside me or other children. It's amazing to see his sense of humour developing - teasing me by leaning in for kisses then at the last second running away laughing smile all the things he probably would have done if he had gone to nursery, but may not have done, or may have been to someone else before me.

The worst things are worrying about money, and worrying about what will happen when I decide I want to look for work in the future. Also, days can get monotonous if you aren't careful. As I said above, you need other mums who have chosen to quit their jobs as it can be very difficult not having the adult conversation and mental stimulation that you get in a job. There are days when DS drives me demented, but there's nothing I can do, I just have to deal with him. I get a lot of people presuming I'm "wasting my education" or similar, and have had the comments about being just a housewife, or lady of leisure (I wish!). When I've been unwell and just wanted to stay in bed all day, I can't as he still needs looking after and there's no calling in sick!

Overall I made the right decision for me, and for my family. How would you fit studying in with raising your child without using childcare? I have started an open uni degree, and being honest I couldn't do it without at least 1 day a week to spend a good few hours on it undisturbed, plus a few evenings each week. My DH takes DS out every Saturday so I can work solidly on it, obviously a MSc would be much harder.

Being a SAHM to a toddler is a million miles away from being on maternity leave, I didn't think it would be (despite being told by other mums) but it really is completely different!

Rockchick1984 Wed 31-Oct-12 23:21:46

Wow, epic post there, why write one sentence when I can write a dissertation grin

needsadviceplease Thu 01-Nov-12 06:18:43

It was a really good post to read, so thank you! It also really echoed a lot of my thoughts and hopes, I really really don't think I'll be prepared to leave my baby at a year.
I would get most of my childcare costs covered, I think, even without funding. But I do need to double-check that.

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