lady at computer holding a young baby

Maternal Mental Health Week – Is Returning to Work A Source of Stress?

May 3rd – 9th, 2021 is Maternal Mental Health Week

And we’ve already written a post for accountancy employers in the UK shining the spotlight on flexible working in accountancy and what a great solution it can be for new parents in the workplace.

But with women making up almost of half of UK accountants we know that each year many of them will be taking maternity leave and that the prospect of returning to work and balancing the logistical, emotional and physical needs of a new family, your employer and yourself, can be a huge source of stress for new mums.

So we thought we’d share some ideas about how you can help make the process as pain free as possible and also how we can help you if you find your employer isn’t wanting to take steps to offer you flexibility.

What are accountants entitled to when they return to work from maternity leave?

If you’ve taken less than 26 weeks maternity leave (otherwise known as ordinary maternity leave) the law requires that your employer offers you the right to return to exactly the same job that you took leave from.

But if you’ve taken additional maternity leave (anything over 26 weeks) your employer should offer you the same job on the same terms, but, should that not be possible, they are permitted to offer you a similar job. In this instance the terms of the job (salary, other employee benefits, hours of work and job location etc) should not be less than the job you took maternity leave from.

That’s the bare minimum and an employer who fails to offer that should be reminded of their legal responsibilities.

Should your employer be considering making staff redundant whilst you are on maternity leave they would need to pay specific attention to the guidance around maternity legislation which are outlined on the ACAS website. 

But what happens if you are an accountant who would like to return to work in a more flexible format?

Well it’s absolutely your right to request that from your employer.

We’ll highlight the process for making your request in a moment but first it’s important that you understand that your employer has three months to consider your request for flexible working, so should you need to return to work in a different format to the one you left, you’ll want to ensure you submit your request well in advance of your agreed return to work date to ensure you have time to plan.

You’ll need to write to your employer making it clear that you are making a flexible working request. 

Your letter should detail the date you’re sending it and the date you’d like the change to be made applicable. If you have a specific change in mind (we’ve outlined the benefits to employers of part time working, job sharing and flexi time in this article ) then detail how you envisage that might work and address any problems that your employer might foresee.

If you’ve made any flexible working requests before you should mention them in the letter and if your request relates to any protected characteristics as outlined in the Equality Act of 2010 be sure to mention (for instance if you have a disability that makes it harder to access a certain type of childcare.)

When your employer receives your request they should set up a meeting for you to discuss your request and you can request to take someone with you to this meeting to act as a source of support (though your employer does not need to approve this.)

You should then expect a decision in writing within three months of submitting the request.

What should accountants do if their requests for flexible working are denied?

Sadly not all firms will be able to offer the flexible arrangement that suits you. Some because it’s genuinely not practical or affordable for them to work that way and some because they’ve not yet clocked on to the very many benefits of flexible working.

If you find your request denied and you have a young child who depends on you, this can naturally impact your mental health at a time that is already challenging.

Accountants are in demand and at Public Practice Recruitment Ltd we have a database jam packed full of hiring managers who are very keen to hear about committed, skilled and experienced talent and are ready to offer flexibility in exchange for their service.

“Flexibility in the workplace is more achievable than ever before and if you don’t see the perfect role on our jobs pages, don’t be disheartened. Lots of firms are always recruiting and will make space in their organisational structure for the right people.”

Garry Howling, MD

So if the process of returning to work in accountancy following a period of maternity leave is one that is negatively impacting your mental health, we’re here to help. The first step is to upload your CV or send us an email and we’ll get back in touch to arrange a confidential chat. We’re well versed in supporting candidates who have encountered difficulties at work and we’ll be sure to be sensitive to the needs of you and your new family.

Becoming a parent should be a time of joy. We’re here to help ensure new parents find that at work and at home.



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