SHOULD YOU CHANGE CAREERS WHILE PREGNANT?

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By ANGHARAD SALAZAR LLEWELLYN

“What on earth are you doing? Why quit now?”

This was the usual reaction I received when I told friends, colleagues and family that I was leaving my job, having handed in my resignation at three months’ pregnant.

Let’s be honest, it’s understandable. I also never imagined that I’d hand in my notice a mere 24 hours after my husband and I received a positive twelve-week baby scan. Seeing a little outline of our baby on the screen made my heart swell with joy.

Fast forward to the next day and I was tapping out an email to HR to let them know that I would be leaving, to give the freelance life another shot.

How did I get to this point?

To put it simply, my career ambitions weren’t being met, and hadn’t been for well over a year. I’ve always viewed my career ambitions and my family ambitions to be separate, yet intrinsically connected.

Yes, I’m going to a mother now but that doesn’t mean that I’m not as fiercely ambitious as I was in my twenties, or I don’t still have the fire in my belly that I had prior to starting a family. And that doesn’t mean I don’t have as much passion for my career as I do for maintaining a healthy and happy home life.

Plus, if you’re going to leave your child in a nursery for up to 12 hours a day, you’ve got to really, really love your job. Otherwise the conflict is just too much.  Maybe not for everyone, but it was for me. Over the last 18 months, as I struggled with this conflict, some of the advice that I received was all along the same lines.

A career counsellor asked why I found “work so important”? I was encouraged to “just do the minimum” or “focus on my family”. But that’s just not my attitude to work, and never will be.  

Thank God for a supportive husband, who agreed that it was time for me to try something new, and said we’d scrape by somehow. He trusted that I would put my entrepreneurial spirit to practice, and would start hustling for freelance work now that I’d committed to a new start.

Having decided to resign, the first thing I did was to try and find other people who had done the same, and made a go of it. It was actually pretty hard to find many people who had also decided to change career at this point in their pregnancy.

There was some advice available for those in my position. Two really useful websites that I came across were gov.uk/employers-maternity-pay-leave and maternityaction.org.uk and their helpful information on resigning during pregnancy. I used these to give me guidance in what benefits I would qualify for if I secured a new role. Both sites also have helpful information on what you are entitled to in your current role.

So while definitely not an expert, here are my top tips for those considering changing careers while pregnant:

  • Take your time to make your decision, don’t rush into anything

  • Think about what will make you happy – is staying at your job and having financial security worth more than the upheaval of trying to find new work?

  • Talk to your friends and family - you don’t have to go through tough times alone

  • Research your rights, including the best time to resign. You’ll quality for Statutory Maternity pay if you are still on the payroll around your 26th week of pregnancy, (which also depends what holiday pay that you have). Read here for the details

  • You won’t be guaranteed Statutory Maternity Pay if you leave prior to this time while pregnant as any new job isn’t obliged to pay this for you. However, some women can claim for Maternity Allowance directly from the Government

  • Get any important information given to you by advisors or your current employer in writing

  • Read the small print in your contract, it’s common to have to commit to going back to a role for anything up to 18 months to qualify for enhanced maternity pay, or face paying it back.

  • Read everything twice - being pregnant, tired, likely emotional and suffering with a touch of baby brain - make sure you don’t miss any important details.

Am I any closer to knowing what on earth I’m doing? Not yet. But for the first time in a long time, I’m optimistic, and excited for a new chapter in both my career, and my family life.