Welcome to our School's parental leave website, which includes information for staff who are about to take maternity, parental, shared parental, childbirth or adoption leave. You will find a number of useful cases studies from staff, including academics and post-docs as well as PhD students who have all successfully taken maternity and parental leave whilst working in the School. We hope that this provides some useful insights about how to manage this important time and your work, and will support you in making arrangements for this family leave. You will also find links to guidelines for staff developed by the School and websites giving more information for students.
Professor Ben Cosh, Head of SMPCS
The University's Family leave pages include all the policies and forms for these planned absences, as well as contacts for the School's HR Partners for staff working in the School.
School policy on parental leave (PDF download, updated March 2017)
Website resources for students planning to take parental leave
Examples of parental leave within the School
Dr Claire Ryder, NERC Independent Research Fellow
“I went on maternity leave in May 2013. I was lucky that, although I was around 3 months from the end of my contract, I was due to start another one on which I'd been a named researcher on the proposal, so I didn't have to worry too much about contracts ending while on maternity leave, or soon after returning to work. I originally planned to take 9 months leave, but ended up extending this to 10 months closer to the time. I'd managed to get my own main papers for the first project published just before my maternity leave, but lots of the other project papers on which I was a co-author were submitted and reviewed while I was on maternity leave, so I ended up using Keep in Touch (KIT) days to work on these. I attended two international conferences relatively soon after returning to work, which I'd made a point of submitting abstracts to while on leave. Although it was hard being away from the family at this early stage, the conferences really helped me catch up with research developments I'd missed while being on leave and catch up with international colleagues.”
Dr Andrew Charlton-Perez, Associate Professor and MSc Programme Director
“Our first son was born in 2009 before the changes to the law that allowed shared parental leave. Because my wife and I try to share our parenting equally we both wanted to share leave when our second son was born in 2012. My wife was on leave for the first 9 months and I stayed at home for 3½ months after this. We really valued and enjoyed the experience of shared leave since it gave us both a chance to be at home with our son and also to experience being the sole member of the household going out to work. The department was generally very supportive of my request for shared leave, despite this being very new at the time, and the planning we put in place helped to make the transitions away from and back to work much easier. The experience certainly gave me a lot of insight into some of the working problems that anyone taking extended leave for whatever reason can come across, but it also gave me confidence that these problems can be worked around when the desire to support similar arrangements is available. I would strongly encourage other members of staff to consider shared parental leave.”
Sanita Vetra-Carvalho, as a PhD student in Meteorology:
“I was 2½ years into my PhD when our son announced himself unexpectedly. I was over the moon, but also I had not planned on having babies while studying, my mantra was to finish studying, get a stable job and then plan for a family. So in the midst of joy it felt very daunting. My worries jumped from learning about labour, how to handle a baby, get home ready to will I be able to combine my PhD with motherhood. Now looking back it was actually a very good timing (as it has been for many of my friends both men and women who have had their first child in the middle of their PhDs).
My PhD was 3½ years long from NERC with a CASE stipend from the Met Office. If I remember correctly, my NERC contract said that I was entitled to 6 months full pay and then I could take up to a year unpaid leave. I chose to go for 6 months maternity leave and then come back part time working 3 days per week. Both Maths and Meteorology departments were very helpful in assisting with the paperwork to suspend my studies for 6 months before I went on maternity leave, thus not cutting short the time needed to complete my work, and then again before I returned to my studies 6 months later.
As my 6 months of maternity leave came to close to ending, I had to organise childcare for our son; it was very daunting to navigate nurseries, childminders, nannies, au pairs ... Leaving your precious first born with someone else when they are only 6 months old is very scary. That was my main hurdle to overcome when returning to my studies.
My supervisors were very supportive and were good at making sure I was on track and didn’t get too tangled in some section of my thesis. It was actually a very good training and preparation for a real job. I am very happy now that my son announced himself unexpectedly during my PhD studies as actually it was such a good time to have him for me, as while PhD is like a job, still you have a limited amount of responsibility in comparison to when you have an actual job and more freedom to organise your time around your family needs. I had a paid maternity leave from NERC and I would definitely do it again and would definitely go part time once the baby arrives to get the best of both worlds. I completed my PhD on time and got a Post Doc position here in Meteorology following my PhD.”
... and Sanita again as a Post-doc in the department:
“I also have taken maternity leave for 9 months, which all worked out very well with the project as there was sufficient time for me to do the remaining work upon my return without the need to hire a person while I was away. Logistically and financially School staff and HR explained all the options such as holidays, Keep in Touch (KIT) days etc so I knew how to plan my leave. Return was emotionally scary, but department was very welcoming and prepared so within a week I was back working happily. “
Dr Debbie Clifford, Technical Project Officer, on her experiences of maternity leave in the School (excepts from a letter sent to the Head of School):
“I am writing to express my appreciation for the School’s support during my recent maternity leave and return to work. I am aware that experiences across the University are mixed, and often we only feed back complaints, so I wanted to let you know that my experience has been thoroughly positive. I would like to highlight the following:
- Helpful and encouraging meetings with the School Administrator Marguerite Gascoine, my SDR reviewer Mike Lockwood and HR Partner Alan Twyford;
- Support for the reduction of my hours to 80%, giving me 4 days at work and 3 days at home, following the visible example of other part-time working in the department at a senior level;
- Prompt processing and payment of my Keeping in Touch days, which I used to clear out my inbox and catch up on projects so that I was ready to make progress on my first day back;
- The buddy system for people returning from parental leave, which, combined with regular activities such as the monthly parents’ lunch, provides opportunities to discuss life as a parent with work colleagues.
In particular, I would like to record a special thank you for the efforts made to make it easy for me to express while at work. The access to a clean, private room nearby (the first aid room in Agriculture), the loan of a pump, and the placing of a fridge in my office all demonstrated that the School was aware of what my needs as a nursing mother would be, and that I would be supported during a physically and emotionally demanding time.
My husband and I made the decision to split our parental leave entitlement between us equally (he works elsewhere and his employer was equally supportive). At a recent CQSD course I was pleased to discover that many of the other university employees in the room had also split their leave with their partner. This is an interesting contrast to my peers outside of the university, where I have yet to meet another couple that have taken this option. I feel strongly that it will only be once this is seen as normal practice that we will be able to have equality in the work place.
At no time did I feel that I was being asked to make a choice between my daughter and my career. I am privileged to be a part of such a forward-thinking and supportive School, and I hope that this approach can be replicated to the benefit of everyone taking parental leave across the University.”