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Working during pregnancy: returning to work

This page provides information and advice about returning to work after pregnancy. The guidance has been developed by the RCOG Trainees’ Committee but is also relevant post-CCT.

General advice about returning to work

Try to give your Training Programme Director as much notice as possible about your plans to return to work, and also let them know if your plans change. Under employment law you’re required to give 8 weeks’ notice, but try to give more wherever possible. If you decide to postpone your return to work, you must give 8 weeks’ notice before the original, earlier date.

If you’re returning to work before the end of ordinary maternity leave, you’re entitled to return to the same job you were doing before you went on maternity leave. If you’re changing trust/employer, speak to the HR department at both your current and future employers, if the latter is known.

The prospect of returning to work can be daunting, whatever your level of training. You may find that some skills come back quickly but that the fine details of others almost have to be learned again. Although you’ll want to maximise your time at home with your family, maybe consider making a ‘how to’ list of procedures or conditions to help make you a bit more confident on your return to work. To help ease the transition, maybe check what’s been building up in your email inbox, and have a look at what new and revised Green-top Guidelines have been published during your maternity leave.

Please also read the RCOG’s guidance on returning to training after a period of absence.

Returning to work less than full-time

One of the main considerations you’ll face is whether to return to work full-time or less than full-time (LTFT). Both options have positives and negatives, and choosing one doesn’t mean you’re committed to that work pattern for the rest of your training or career. LTFT can allow you to spend more time with your family, which can help you enjoy your career more; however, financial constraints may mean this isn’t an option for you.

If you’re considering returning to work LTFT, please read the RCOG’s guidance on LTFT training. Each LETB will have someone responsible for LTFT training (usually an Associate Dean), who can confirm your eligibility to work LTFT. This doesn’t commit you, but it’s important to start the process in good time and initiate the paperwork needed, then your Training Programme Director will work out the logistics of the proposed post.

Sometimes, there may be a delay to the date you can resume working because your Training Programme Director will have to fit you into the rotation rather than putting you back into the full-time slot you were in previously. Some deaneries have their LTFT trainees in O&G working ‘slot shares’ of 50–80% full-time hours. This involves finding another LTFT trainee at approximately the same level of training to fill the slot with you. Then there’s negotiation with your trust to sort out the funding and the actual job plan.

Speak to other LTFT trainees to see what sort of job plan they have and whether something similar would suit your circumstances. Some LETBs have a contact group already set up. The RCOG has an LTFT Advisor who can offer advice if there are any difficulties. It is no longer necessary for LTFT posts to be approved by the RCOG LTFT Advisor, as any post approved by the GMC for full-time training is also approved for LTFT training.

It goes without saying that working LTFT doesn’t exempt you from shift working or on-call duties. Posts for LTFT trainees should reflect the same balance of work as those for full-time colleagues. Daytime working, on-call and out-of-hours duties will normally be undertaken pro rata, as all trainees need to experience the pressure and develop the decision-making skills that come from emergency work.

Childcare

Think about your childcare arrangements well in advance. Local councils have lists of nurseries, playgroups and childminders. Your hospital trust may also have a childcare coordinator who can inform you if your trust or hospital has childcare provision, and what’s available in your local area. If possible, have back-up plans for if your childcare goes wrong (which it will do occasionally). It’s also important to have a flexible approach as sometimes plans need to be changed.

Breastfeeding and postnatal health

Breastfeeding mothers need a clean, private place to express and store their milk. Employers are legally required to provide suitable rest facilities for workers who are breastfeeding. Although not a legal requirement, employers are encouraged to provide a healthy and safe environment for nursing mothers to express and store milk. Some neonatal units may be able to provide expressed milk storage facilities – it’s worth asking locally.

Importantly, new mothers are also entitled to have paid time off for postnatal care (i.e. health clinic appointments), as is the case for antenatal care visits.

Find out more

Please see the list of useful resources for further information about working during pregnancy and beyond.

This section also includes:

Always discuss specific issues with your employer. You can also seek individualised advice from the BMA. You can also use the RCOG Trainees’ Committee and your Trainee Representative as a source of support.

Elsewhere on the site

Out of programme (OOP)
Advice on taking time out of the training programme, including for a career break such as maternity leave
Less than full-time (LTFT)
Information about less than full-time (LTFT) training, including how to apply