Well of course, the answer is yes – I am entitled to maternity leave and pay/allowance. But the real question is in reality will I get the 6 to 12 months focused solely on my baby that I had imagined when I was in full time employment?
Depending on what stage you are at with your business or if you have someone full time who can take over the full operating of the business, you may be able to take a longer break. However this is not the case for many of us.
Many would call me a bit of a “control freak” or someone who is always planning, and I appreciate you can not plan for what it will be like to be a parent for the first time. However planning with an open mind that things can change and aren’t rigid is important in the position I am in now. 3 weeks until my due date, with a full time business that needs to keep operating. Through some research and talking to business owners and mothers, here are some tips I received to help prepare yourself and hopefully give you more time to focus on being a mum when baby is here and perhaps have the maternity leave that you had envisioned!:
What day to day tasks can be passed on? You may not be 5+ years in with a consistent cash flow, but write a list of all the tasks that someone can be trained to take over. Then work out how many hours a week that will take up. You may not be in a position to hire a full time employee – so how about a 6 month temp for 15 hours a week (as an example). Take the pressure of yourself for the day to day tasks that somebody else will be able to cover whilst you focus on your little one.
If you already have staff, what other tasks can you delegate? You should have more than enough time before baby is due to train someone on some of the responsibilities you have. Let go of what you can and trust in your employees! Just remember they may need more hours or pay rise to cover additional responsibilities.
3. PROCESS IMPROVEMENT
This one was key for my business! Break down every process that is involved in running your business – is there any way these can be improved? Are there any softwares out there that can help speed up or improve a particular process? We found many of our processes were paper heavy, so moved to online forms, which has saved lots of scanning and rewriting of information (as an example!).
If you can, speak to a specialist in process improvement in your industry and perhaps invite them in for a day session to review and provide advice on ways you can improve.
This is the one thing I didn’t do, but looking into a Business Mentor/Coach more and more I understand why they can be so important for business owners. Neither my husband or I had set up a business before, nor did our close friends or family members own their own full time businesses – so we did not have people close to us who could transfer knowledge, skills and experience during the process. We spent many hours researching, attended courses and seminars, spoke to the governing bodies etc to understand fully what was required to set up and run a ltd company in our industry. Having a 1 on 1 mentor/coach would have definitely helped during this process and probably still would as we are still a very young business with big aspirations.
5. SUPPORT NETWORKS
When baby is here – I expect I will still need to keep an eye on the business and work here and there once I have taken an initial maternity leave. I have passed on most of the tasks for the day to day running of the business, but as the hire is part time, outside of these hours there may be certain things we need to deal with – so my husband as the other business Director (Who isn’t full time working on the business) I imagine will be very busy!
Having conversations before baby is here with your partner, closest friends and family to see who you are able to call on during these periods where you need to focus on work for a short amount of time. I appreciate this sounds a lot simpler than in reality, as depending on babies routines etc this may not be easy. However knowing who you can rely on in times of need is important, and having these conversations before hand may give you a reality check as to who will actually have time/be able to help out. Many business owners and mothers I have spoken to say when baby sleeps, that’s when they are able to work a couple of intense hours to get what they need done – but it is extremely hard when you are completely on your own – but doable!
I work from home, and I am fortunate enough that my husband has 3 days off a week – which will be the days I will try and put some hours in, which gives him some 1 on 1 time with his daughter.
6. SET HOURS
Another piece of advice I have received is once baby is in a routine(ish), you should be able to know what times in the day you may be able to fit in an hour or two here and there. Try and stick to these hours as much as your baby allows, as you will want to slowly establish a work routine that works for you and your babies routine.
REMEMBER – this isn’t my advice, but advice I have been given/read up on that I have followed. Whether in reality I do get to feel like I have had even some form of “maternity leave” we will see. However passing on the day to day tasks and a process improvement exercise have already given me a lot of time back!
So back to the question, Do I get Maternity Leave now that I run my own business?
The answer in my case is no I won’t get a complete break for the 6-12 months that I envisioned, but I have put things in place to allow me to focus more of my time on being a first time mum with a lot less responsibilities for the day to day running of the business, which will allow me to take a small break at the beginning.
Any other thoughts/advice/tips you may have to share with myself and other parents to be/business owners – I would be keen to hear!