Hi, in today’s post, I will be sharing with you the knowledge I gained from taking maternity leave on two separate occasions. I will say that men reading my post ought to know that paid paternity leave is available in the NHS. People should also know that adoptive parents can get leave and if you lose a child to a still birth or other similar challenge, there can still be arrangements for time off. I digressed so let me get back to my own experiences.
After Plab, I returned to Nigeria and continued paying for my GMC license fees because I wanted to remain on the register. When I decided to move, I was pregnant and I did not know how it would affect my life. Below are the different experiences I had.
My first maternity journey
I was new to the system and I did not know that there was appropriate timing to inform my line manager or that there was a risk assessment. The most crucial thing I did not know was that I was not automatically entitled to paid maternity leave. Now let me clarify this a little. Every NHS worker is entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave. 26 weeks paid, if you qualify and 26 unpaid. During the 26 weeks unpaid, you may qualify for statutory maternity pay. The things that determine whether or not you get paid and how much you get paid include but are not limited to how long you have worked in the NHS and how long you have worked in your particular trust. Payroll and the HR office will work out your eligibility and let you know the options available to you regarding pay during your maternity leave.
My first time around, I did not get paid during maternity leave. I missed the number of weeks required to have qualified by a narrow margin. It is useful to plan your finances with the understanding of what your income will be during your away from work.
My second maternity journey
I was pleasantly surprised with a positive pregnancy test result. However, it coincided with needing to find a new job. The horror, who would employ me if they knew I was pregnant? Thankfully, several people informed me that disclosing my pregnancy status to a new employer was discretionary. It was really difficult to hold on to that information, in one interview, the interviewer was so kind I blurted it out, needless to say I did not get that job and I learnt to put my interests first. The job I got offered due to visa issues, I was unable to resume in earlier days of the pregnancy and arrived to resume a few weeks to term. Oh, the trials! Thankfully, it was an amazing team. They not only respected my right to choose the length of my maternity leave, they also correctly assessed my right to maternity pay and I got the paid maternity leave option (Option 1). This also needs clarification. There are two assessments that go into whether you get paid. One of them is how long you have worked in the NHS, the other one is how long you have worked in your Trust.
For my first maternity leave, because I had not been with the NHS for too long, I was able to get a refund on my pension contributions and opt out. I opted back in as soon as I could. I am pro-pension contributions.
For the second maternity leave, I suspended my pension contributions so that deductions would not come off the pay I received during maternity leave.
Childcare is costly. There is no getting around that. When you are planning the amount of time to take off bear in mind that if your goal is financially driven, you may find that all you earn when you return to work is poured into paying for childcare. The more affordable options available include getting help from family. This may be family local to the UK or family abroad who are willing to come and spend some time with you. Another option which I took on both occasions, was to return to my home country to spend some time. Again, some clarifications, there is a time limit for time spent outside the UK when on a Tier 2 visa, check to be sure you do not exceed it. There are costs attached. For example, the first time, I had been living in furnished hospital accommodation, so I left my limited belongings in storage. The second time however, my belongings had significantly increased as I lived in furnished accommodation, I also had the kind of things you acquire when you have a growing infant. It made sense to retain my accommodation while I was away. Of course, this had financial implications, so planning was key.
In summary, the most important things to think about when preparing for maternity leave are
- What are the guidelines for disclosing the pregnancy to your line manager to qualify for maternity leave?
- How do you choose how long to spend on maternity leave?
- What to do about pension contributions when on maternity leave
- How to plan for childcare during and after maternity leave
I hope you found this useful. Please share with anyone who needs to read this. Comment on your experiences. Did you have all this information when you were taking your maternity leave? I look forward to hearing from you.
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