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Your Maternity Leave Questions Answered By Careers Coach Jessica Chivers

Missed our chat with author and careers advisor Jessica? You can find all the expert advice she shared here

More of you than ever have or are returning to work after having a baby – so we want to support you every step of the way with our Working Mums Club.

As part of this, we’ve recruited some of the most inspirational working mums we’ve ever met to create a unique panel, who will offer advice, share their own experiences and support you with the joint pressures of bringing up a family and moving up the career ladder.

And that's just what panellist Jessica Chivers addressed in our Facebook Q&A on Thursday – maternity leave and starting your own business when you have a child.
Jessica is the founder of employment coaching company The Talent Keeper Specialists and author of Mothers Work! How to Get a Grip on Guilt and Make a Smooth Return to Work (Hay House, 2011).

From cakes to career changes, get inspired and clued up with her advice.

Q: I want to start my own business while on maternity leave – but is that an issue with where I work?

Jessica: If you were to start a new job while on maternity leave, you'd bring your SMP entitlement to an end. I believe that starting your own business would NOT affect your SMP – find guidance here.

If you were to start a new job while on maternity leave, you'd bring your SMP entitlement to an end - but I believe that starting your own business would NOT affect your SMP

If you don't get what you need here, I think a call to HMRC or the DWP would be the best thing to do to check exactly where you stand. And/or call a solicitor who specialises in employment law.

Q: After thinking of a career change for a while, now my son's off to nursery I think it's time to take the leap. But I need training. Where can I go about getting financial help with this?

Jessica: Is it financial help or is it working out what the career change is? If you're new to business do find your local enterprise agency and have a free chat with them.

Also see Enterprising Women and Women Unlimited for lots of resources and information.

Q: Now that flexible hours have been introduced for everyone, how will this affect my chances of asking to work one day a week at home?

Jessica: The right to request flexible working for all came in recently and I hope it will mean that flexible working becomes a way of life. It's good for business – and not just something that parents or carers want. The key to any request being granted is showing how flexible working will be of benefit to business/clients/colleagues and not just you.

When you make your case demonstrate how home working might make you more effective, so having a quiet space for example. And if you can't think of any particular benefits, then focus on mitigating any potential downsides.

Q: I've started baking since being off work with my baby and want to try my hand at selling some stuff. But there seems to be so much paperwork involved! Where can I get started with this?

Jessica: Best place is to look at the Food Standards Agency website and have a chat to your local enterprise agency for business advice.

A friend of mine has recently started a food business (cookery classes for little ones) but she doesn't cook from her own premises. She uses other venues and I believe this has lessened the 'red tape’.

Q: I'm freelance but set up as a Limited Company. I'm due to go on maternity leave in a month’s time. How often will my maternity allowance be paid and how should I go about claiming it? Thanks!

Jessica: Thinking back to when I was pregnant, I was self-employed (not a Ltd company) and I claimed Maternity Allowance through the DWP.

As you're a limited company and essentially an employee, I think you will be claiming Statutory Maternity Pay NOT Maternity Allowance (there's a subtle difference). Details are on the Govt's excellent resource pages.

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