Back to Work Toolkit - Returning Parents

For any parent, the prospect of going back to work after a period of “time-out” is daunting. Whether it’s been weeks or years, it can be both emotionally and logistically challenging, and there are often a number of factors one needs to consider before and throughout the process.

Whether you are choosing to go back full-time or part-time, there will undoubtedly be some need for flexibility. This doesn’t have to feel like a sacrifice or like you cannot obtain a positive work-life balance. More and more parents are choosing to pursue a career while maintaining a happy household - it’s just about finding the right support and the right balance. 

This toolkit provides practical advice that will help you in your next career move.


Your Credentials

Your CV / Portfolio
Many job seekers will experience a 'gap' in employment during their career and it's perfectly normal. Our top tips are:

  • Be Honest
    Add in the dates you have been away from work and make sure you're honest. 'Full-time parent' is perfectly acceptable. You may even want to add in any additional skills you have gained during this time.

  • Remain Confident
    Although you may have been out employment for a little while that doesn't mean all the skills and experience you once had disappear. You have most likely added to your skill set - parenting brings a lot of new skills, so highlight them. You will have a lot to offer, so be confident.

  • State Your Achievements
    Start your CV with a paragraph about your achievements/skills which are relevant to the job application. Then list your previous jobs (most relevant first) with key achievements and work history. 

  • Showcase Your Commitment
    Show your potential employers that you are ready to re-enter the workplace - put this in your covering letter and state how you've been preparing to return to the work environment. 

 

Your Covering Letter
The importance of a cover letter should never be underestimated. It is the first thing a potential employer or recruiter will see and will allow you to accentuate key points from your CV. Here are some tips for a stand-out covering letter:

  • Give a brief summary introduction of your work history and why you're appropriate for consideration

  • Highlight your most recent experience and successes and why the relevant to the role you are applying for

  • Get your personality across - your covering letter can be less formal than your CV

  • Explain why you are applying for that particular role and why you think you'd be a good fit

  • Keep it succinct, spell check and sign off appropriately. 

The Search

Job Boards

  • Most will give you a “part-time/full-time” search option.
  • Some helpful employers will put the word “flexible” in the job title of the advert so you can try inputting “desired job title + flexible”
  • You may also find it useful to explore job boards for returning parents i.e. WorkingMums, Mumsnet

Glassdoor reviews
Try looking into the company on Glassdoor before applying. While the reviews themselves can be personally bias, there is an area which lists the company benefit.

Recruiters
Recruiters should be able to tell you everything you need to know about whether an employer is “parent-friendly” or not. Be open and honest with your recruiter about what you need from your new employer and the job itself.


Things To Consider

Hours
It’s important to work out a working pattern that fits with your childcare arrangements. There are lots of options - five short days, three full days, compressed hours, working from home etc.

This is something which you should be able to work out with your potential employer during the offer process but resources such as Flexibility and Mother Pukka have some excellent materials to refer to.

Salary
You should always be offered what your salary would be as a full-time personnel according to market value. If you’ve been out of the game for a while then our Salary Survey can help you identify this.

If you are going to be working anything other than the standard hours, then your contract will state the full-time salary followed by “pro rata”, meaning your pay will be adjusted to the hours you work. 

To establish what this actually looks like based on the hours you’ll be working, follow the equation below:

  • Full time salary / 52 / 40 (or standard hours for business) = hourly rate
  • Hourly rate x your agreed number of weekly hours x 52 = pro-rata salary

 Benefits

Make sure you get a formal list of benefits including anything like childcare vouchers and family dentist/healthcare. It might not make or break your decision but it certainly helps to look at the whole picture.


At The Interview

It's important that you prepare yourself in the best possible way and pre-empt any potential questions you may be asked during the interview. By doing so will ensure you're have prepared answers in advance and you'll feel more confident delivering them.

  • Why did you leave or are you leaving your last/current job?
  • Can you tell me a little about yourself
  • Why are you interested in this role?
  • What's been your proudest achievement at work?
  • Can you tell me about a challenging situation at work and how you handled it?
  • Where do you see yourself in 3 years?
  • How would your colleagues/friends describe you?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What are your salary expectations?

It's also important to show that you're interested in finding out more about the role/organisations, so it's always good to prepare some questions to ask the interviewer, here are some examples:

  • Why are you recruiting for this role?
  • What does success in this role look like?
  • What are the ambitions for the team / organisation in the next few years?
  • What are the next steps in the recruitment process?

Before You Start

Before you start your new role, here are some things you may want to consider:

Logistics
If you get the chance, it’s always helpful to plan one of two “trial runs” of your route into work. Try to factor in an extra 10-15 minutes to allow for any potential delays. When setting your time for finishing work, also take into consideration if there is a delay on public transport as many nurseries will charge a lateness fee if you don’t arrive in time.

Boundaries
It is important to set your boundaries with your manager and colleagues in terms of your working pattern, so that they know when they can contact you and when you are available to respond. You can set an auto-reply during the times when you’re “out of office” with a reminder of your working hours.

Tech
You need to ensure you have the appropriate access to laptops/tech and logins if you are working remotely, or if you unexpectedly can’t make it into the office due to your child being sick or a school/childcare closure.


Your Rights

The government doesn’t have any legislation ensuring you to be paid if you need to take time off to look after your child, so it’s worth discussing it with your employer off the bat. Another really amazing resource to help navigate through this tricky time is Pregnant Then Screwed which provides information, services and events.

The laws and policies which have been developed around employers responsibilities to flexible workers and parents returning to work are now better than ever. See the following links for a comprehensive guide on what you should expect from a legal standpoint:

www.workingmums.co.uk/flexible-working-a-guide/

www.gov.uk/government/publications/parents-return-to-work-and-childcare-responsibilities