Preparing to welcome a child into your life: a practical guide to planning leave from your career

by Katie Reygate, Associate Head of Pharmacy – early careers, London, Health Education England (currently on maternity leave)

Welcoming a child into your life, no matter how many times you’ve done it before, is an exciting time. As you prepare yourselves and your home for the new addition(s), it’s important to plan leave from work, and your return once all is settled.

Here are some of my top tips to bear in mind every step of the way:

Understand your entitlements

Do you know how to apply for adoption/maternity/shared parental leave? Get a copy of the policies/processes relating to leave. Note down important dates such as deadlines for submission of forms e.g., MAT1B etc. If you need confidential advice,  your human resources department, employer assistance programme or equivalent, can help.

Check the policies and procedures for flexible working and changing hours

Before you go on leave, ensure you understand the policies and procedures for flexible working and changing hours. These may need to change as you adapt to having children in your life and plan your return to work. Flexible working arrangements depend on business needs and are made at the discretion of your line manager.

Plan when and how to take your leave

There is no right amount of leave to take - every family and situation is different. Make a note of the notification time needed if your situation changes. In the NHS, your annual leave and bank holidays accrue during your leave and can be used to extend it.

Plan ahead for your handover

If you lead a team, project or business, ensure everyone is up to date with objectives and plans. Handover notes may be required. to help those covering your leave and will help when you return.

Keep in touch (KIT) during your leave

Decide on how you plan to keep in touch (if at all!) Do you know how to keep in touch with your employer during your leave? Find out beforehand. It may be nice to understand what’s happening chronologically and how/why decisions are being made. Also, it’s nice to have an adult conversation about something other than your kid(s)! Your manager or HR department are required to keep you informed of major changes that impact your work or rights. You could also ask a “buddy” at work to update you informally.

Be realistic about your return commitments

Don’t over-commit!

Childcare arrangements

Popular nurseries can have long waiting lists, especially those attached to schools or workplaces, so apply as soon as you are expecting / notified of your adoption. If you’re a first-time parent, look into childcare options in your area (the costs and availability may surprise you – and not in a good way!). Websites such as can help, and some employers offer schemes to help with childcare, e.g. childcare voucher scheme.

Finally, some practical “pro” tips

It’s great to have a plan, but you’ll soon discover, you need to be flexible and adaptable. Life with kids is never straightforward, so don’t fret if plans go out the window.

Make a note of your passwords, or you’ll spend the first day(s) back resetting them all. For GPhC revalidation, if you take leave the month before, you are still expected to submit a proportionate amount of evidence, e.g., MAT1B forms etc. Have a look at the GPhC’s frequently asked questions on revalidation especially  What if I can’t meet the full revalidation requirements? and I’ve made a request for a submission deadline extension, or for a reduction in the number of entries I need to submit.  What evidence do I need to provide to support my request?

We want to encourage voices that express the diversity of lived experiences in the profession as part of our inclusion and diversity work. If you’d like to share your story, contact [email protected] or get involved through our ABCD group.


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