Advice column: serious pressure of work after returning from maternity is becoming too much for me

Dear Ash,

I have been under a lot of stress at work lately and am finding it very difficult to sleep and to concentrate. There is just so much pressure to get work done by very tight deadlines, and as people have been leaving they have not been replaced. There seems to be no one to talk to as everyone is too busy to even break for a cup of tea or lunch due to being under the cosh. I have just recently returned from maternity leave too and I feel that I cannot be seen to be complaining, as some may think I’m kicking up a fuss despite having just returned after a year. I can’t even seem to switch off at the weekends or after I return home late during the week – I’m constantly checking emails on my phone and worrying about deadlines. I don’t want to burn out but I don’t want to lose my job!

Ash replies:

You’re clearly overwhelmed and, as you say, this situation cannot continue for much longer without you burning out. Can I suggest that you begin by putting your needs and indeed health first, and although I appreciate that you may be feeling more vulnerable after returning from maternity leave, this should be even more reason for you to prioritise yourself for the sake of yourself and your child. 

The stress and anxiety you are experiencing will undoubtedly have an impact on your home and family too and I strongly urge you to seek help by at least visiting your GP in the first instance. They may be able to suggest some counselling services for you, but may also suggest you take some time out from work. Please be aware there is no shame in seeking such help, as everyone at some point or another will suffer from situations of stress and it is reasonable, and indeed healthy, to reach out for help.

With regard to your particular circumstances, you are not alone. A survey by the Equality & Human Rights Commission in 2015 found that women returning to work after a child are more likely to face discrimination than they were 10 years ago. You therefore need to take time out to consider your options and position, and this may include looking at other options where there is a better work-life balance.

Having a child can sometimes unfortunately mean that a job which may have seemed ideal before the pregnancy can be difficult after a child is born; this of course should not be the case but there clearly still seems to be difficulty on the part of some employers in recognising the need to provide flexibility. Make yourself the priority; things will get better but you just need to reach out for some help.

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor:, or mail to Suite 6b, 1 Carmichael Place, Edinburgh EH6 5PH. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Education, Training & Qualifications team. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, head of admissions on 0131 476 8162, or by email:

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