, Hong Kong

Tips on how to go back to work after maternity leave

By Wilma Wu

The prospect of returning to work after having a baby is sometimes quite daunting especially as there is a desire to stay at home with the new child rather than commute leaving baby behind.  Planning the transition back into the workplace or setting up a company instead need not be a frightening prospect or saga.

Having a baby is an exciting time that brings big changes in the household irrespective of whether the new arrival is the first introduction to the family. For those employees taking maternity leave, there are a few steps that can be taken that will help smooth the transition back into the workplace. Or, maybe, mum wants to stay at home and wants to set up a business that allows for time with baby and a new venture in a flexible environment.

Here are some steps that help smooth the way for a return to work during maternity leave.

Maintain Contact During Leave
Stay in touch with your colleagues and bosses when you take maternity leave, whether this means occasional office visits with your baby or simply touching base over email. You don't need to be checking your work account daily or trying to get involved, just be sure to stay on the radar.

This helps overcome the feeling of missing out on new developments, changes, client activities, and makes the long absence away from the workplace and colleagues quickly become a distant memory when returning to work.

Plan Your Child Care Thoroughly
Being able to depend on good, reliable childcare is one of the single biggest factors in facilitating a return to work. Take time to get to know your helper or child minders well and look for mother’s groups nearby.

Be Sure You're Ready To Return
Some new mums feel that they need to get back to work as quickly as possible, either for financial reasons or because they're worried about losing ground in the office. Don't allow yourself to be pressured into returning too early, as this could put you under unnecessary stress and negatively affect your work performance.

Know Your Rights
Find out all you can about your employer's attitude towards working parents, such as flexible working hours or family-friendly policies. Understand your rights under Hong Kong law too, and be confident you know your employer's obligations as well as what they can and can't ask of you.

According to Hong Kong Labour Law, an employee is eligible for 10 weeks’ paid maternity leave if she has been employed under a continuous contract for not less than 40 weeks. However, if less than 40 weeks, the employee can still take 10 weeks’ maternity leave but without pay.

It’s well worth checking out the Hong Kong Labour Department’s website (https://www.labour.gov.hk) as this contains useful information on maternity leave including how pay is calculated, when maternity leave can take place, employment protection etc.

Harness New Qualities
Rather than focusing on the time you've been away and the meetings you've missed, concentrate on the qualities motherhood often fosters. Many returning mums report that they have higher levels of self-confidence and patience as well as more keenly developed organisational skills.

Speak Up About Your Wants
This is the time to make it very clear what you're hoping for when it comes to your career. Be vocal about your desires, whether it's to change your working hours or to do the job from home, accessing your workload remotely and booking meeting for important client get-togethers as and when they occur.

Make The Most Of Flexible Working
Today's technology makes it easier than ever to enjoy flexibility in the workplace and utilising excellent options such as virtual office which provide reception staff, mail management and many other benefits, offer you to the chance to work to an unconventional schedule while maintaining a professional presence.

New Beginning
Of course, some mums change their mind about returning to work preferring to stay at home with their new son and / or daughter or see their maternity leave as a chance to explore setting up their own business after identifying a market opportunity.

Do check the Hong Kong Labour Department website or seek legal advice about leaving your current job as there will be a required length of notice for the termination of the employment contract or payment in lieu of notice. Plus there are other actions that need to be taken such as informing the relevant government departments, MPF provider, etc.

Setting up a business in Hong Kong is very straightforward. In fact, the Hong Kong Government has made the whole process easy and there is a whole raft of information out there to assist. A first point of call maybe https://www.investhk.gov.hk as this gives pointers to various services offered and valuable information about company registration, tax, bank accounts, visas, plus a lot more.

When registering your company it is worthwhile to check if you can register the same name for a website too. There are few companies offering website name registration together with hosting, email and website creation packages.

Hong Kong being Hong Kong, office rents can be expensive and prohibitive especially if you have just started a company and still waiting for the revenues to start flowing. An option worth considering is the virtual office as this is cost-effective and allows your business to flourish.

Virtual Office
A virtual office gives you a prestigious address, a dedicated local number answered by someone with a local accent and can be a great first step to getting your business venture off the ground. For a fraction of the price of opening a new office and hiring staff, you can have your own real receptionist who can then direct your calls to wherever you are in the world, or professionally take a message.

This means you have full business services, someone to answer the phone and take messages, an automatic call forwarding system, a place to hold meetings, and, importantly, the added wow factor of ‘being’ in a Grade A office building – giving confidence to all your new business partners, suppliers, vendors, retailers etc.

You are, in affect, outsourcing your business administration so you can concentrate on growing the business while working from home and being close to baby.

Many mums go on maternity leave with the intention of returning to work and continuing their career. And many do. However, Hong Kong has the business infrastructure in place that also offers mums the opportunity to work from home - either through a special arrangement with their current employer or as a start-up. 

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