What benefits/flexibility does your institution offer for women returning from maternity leave?

(16 Posts)
Margoonyawill Wed 13-Jan-16 13:56:27

I'm trying to do a very informal poll of what different universities offer for women returning from maternity leave in order to make the transition easier. I'll be heading off on 2nd maternity leave at the end of this academic year and really worried about what two periods of mat. leave in one cycle might potentially do to my REF submission... I'd like to go to my HoD with some suggestions for flexible working on my return, but don't want to ask for anything completely unreasonable (equally, though, do want to ask for as much as possible, within reason), so it would be useful to hear about what's happening elsewhere.

Examples of what I might expect to hear about:
--workload remission (esp. from teaching and admin) for a semester
--option to go PT on a fixed term basis

I'm not asking anyone to out themselves, though! You can either report what you've heard about other institutions (e.g. I know Birmingham offers workload remission, but I don't work there myself) or you can PM me if you prefer.

Big thanks in advance to any who respond.

disquisitiones Wed 13-Jan-16 16:26:27

I would suggest that you look up Athena SWAN submissions to see what is offered across a variety of institutions/departments (even if you don't yourself work in STEM).

Bear in mind that the form of the next REF may well be changed significantly (under consultation) and that in the last REF the number of REF outputs required for those working part-time/taking maternity leave was reduced. That said, I think things vary considerably according to research field/department: nobody in my field would take much maternity leave because of the impact on research but this is obviously not a good thing.

MarasmeAbsolu Wed 13-Jan-16 18:27:47

Big fat NADA.

I had two mat leaves in the last REF cycle - it worked out for me as it reduced my output to 2 submissions, which I could return. I also kept on with the momentum by only taking 4 months for each ML, and kept on with my group meetings throughout (at a local friendly cafe). My first baby was a quiet one, so I could also do a lot of writing between her feeds / while she slept (house was a tip though... priorities!). My second baby was trickier so I did less (but still managed some).

Margoonyawill Thu 14-Jan-16 19:23:41

Thanks you two. Bit depressing overall. Academia definitely has lots of flexibility but taking a chunk of time off for maternity is never straightforward -- always end up having to continue with one project or another.

Have looked at some Athena Swan documents. That's now open to humanities too.

geekaMaxima Fri 15-Jan-16 18:34:39

I'm not aware of what my university offers, exactly, but if I was gong on mat leave again I think I'd ask for the following on my return (with a reasonable expectation of them being granted):

- use my annual leave accrued during mat leave to take one day off per week for a while. 6 months mat leave would accrue enough AL for about 4 months of 4-day weeks while still drawing a full salary.

- ask for the first few months back to avoid teaching blocks that run for more than 2 hours (i.e., no 3-hour lab classes or 3-hour blocks of lectures followed by seminars, etc.). For months after I came back from mat leave, I had to pump milk every 2.5 hours max (which took 20 mins) or I'd be in extreme discomfort and leaking all over the place. shock

- no teaching after 5pm. My university is meant to avoid this slot for people with childcare issues but it sometimes still happens. If I were scheduled for any 5-6 teaching slots, I would have to dig my heels in.

NK5BM3 Tue 19-Jan-16 10:52:55

I don't think the university officially offers anything however I think a lot of it depends on your HoD. Example, my HoD would do nada and only keep to what official REF says (e.g. reduction of output for each maternity leave).

Another HoD I know in another department (also social sciences) offers the returnees a term off teaching. So example, mother comes back to work after 6 months leave in September. The term September - December is de facto her 'study leave' term to get her back on track with her research. Mother will start teaching again in January. this allows the mother to settle the baby in nursery (and if baby gets sick - as per usual!!) the mother can stay at home whilst kid is ill and not feel the guilt of rescheduling classes.

when I returned off my first ML, I had accrued annual leave so that I could work 4 day weeks but drawing a full salary. This helped with nursery fees, settling in baby etc.

Nowadays, I don't know whether that would happen.

I also have a teaching slot these days from 4-6 on a Monday. Granted my kids are a bit older (7 and 5) but still they need picking up from afterschool club. so... I'm not pleased. Apparently, in our department, asking to not teach beyond 5 isn't 'allowed' because we are working till 6. But in other departments in the same university, those colleagues are allowed to choose say teaching from 9-3, or later slots (11-6 - e.g. these are people who might be travelling in from else where and it'll be cheaper on the non-peak hour travel).

good luck!

Margoonyawill Thu 21-Jan-16 13:38:21

Thanks geek and NK. I think that having an idea of what I'd like before approaching HoD is a good idea, and your suggestions are really useful.

Like NK, I think it really just depends on who your HoD is in my institution and does seem to be completely different from dept. to dept. -- you either get lucky or you don't. Fingers crossed.

murmuration Thu 21-Jan-16 21:22:44

When I took my mat leave, nothing.

Now, after trying to look good for Athena SWAN (although no one's actually tested this yet): reduction in teaching and admin for a semester after leave, priority for internal pump-priming funding, and addition as paid holidays to the end of mat leave of any keeping-in-touch days taken during the period of full pay. I think that last is quite nice, although probably pushing it to ask of someone!

Margoonyawill Thu 21-Jan-16 21:56:39

That's interesting. I did ask whether it would be possible to take KIT days as days in lieu, but that's not allowed at my institution apparently.

Must be galling to see all the benefits appear after you no longer need them murmur. Everyone seems to be clamouring to say the right thing for Athena Swan accreditation, just wonder if it will all work out in practice.

fluffikins Fri 22-Jan-16 08:09:50

There's no point in going part time as from what I've seen you end up doing the same amount of work just being paid less.

I've asked for compress hours but just got told to use my research day as childcare essentially meaning I'd lose it and thus my research career. Hardly supportive.

murmuration Fri 22-Jan-16 08:49:51

I think the KIT thing here is because it's those during the full-pay period (the Uni provides just under 4 months of full pay before it drops to SMP). So the School can on its own tell you to just take a bit more holiday if you use KIT days during that period -- our contracts are all written such that holiday is undefined anyway, just need to be approved by Head of School. Only when I took mat leave did I learn that HR had a formula for how many days holiday academics were allocated based on pay grade. If you take a KIT day during the SMP period, HR will give you full pay for that day, and you can't decide to add it as holiday instead.

Agree with no point in going part-time. Unless its very drastic, like 50-60%, you'll still be doing full time hours anyway - at at 50-60% you'll probably be doing 80%, but at least its less.

And, yes, just a bit frustrating to see all the things appear when I'm past that point. Especially as my career has been pretty badly affected - I'm reaching the tipping point where if I don't get funding soon, I don't think it can ever recover. Right now I've reached the point where my track record gets questioned as to why I haven't moved on past things I did before mat leave, but the thing is, the reasons are I had a terribly complicated pregnancy, mat leave, and since then I've been struggling with illness (which I had before, but without a child I could more easily cut out home stuff in preference of spending my energy on work) - and while I wrote tons of grants in my first two years back, I didn't get any, so with only me, I just can't do the research! But I am glad to see that they are changing things, and don't begrudge anyone new getting benefits - just wish this had all happened a bit earlier.

Margoonyawill Mon 25-Jan-16 16:33:21

Agree that there's no point in going PT. You end up doing far more than you're paid for and still everyone else thinks you're slacking... I have heard other academics saying that they just scaled back on what they were doing when their children were small, but that's hard because you're having to fight with your own work ethic (which IMO tends to be pretty strong in anyone in this career!) and your own propensity to say 'yes' when asked to do something as a favour for a colleague.

murmuration really sorry to hear that things are so difficult for you it sounds like you've had a rough time. I find getting work done, and not forgetting really important things, while pregnant is hard enough, never mind the effects of maternity leave and actually being a parent. Writing grants is such a major time suck and, sadly, the success rate is just so small. FWIW the people who've been really good at getting the money in my place have been great 'recyclers' -- i.e. if it's not successful with one funding body, use the feedback to improve it and send it on somewhere else; keep going until you run out of options and/or finally get some cash. Hope things look up for you soon.

murmuration Thu 28-Jan-16 10:32:57

Thanks, margoon. I have been recycling grants, and that's how I know my track record is looking worse. smile A proposal I put in right before I went off came back with praise for moving into a new area and confidence I could do it, but criticisms of some of the project. I've submitted it twice more to various places since then, and by now the project gets praise and the reviews question why I haven't done more in the area in the last three years.

But current plan is to recycle yet again, but this time add a coI with expertise in the new area. Hopefully I can find someone who will be happy to be just a 'name' on a grant, rather than wanting to change the project (which after modification from three sets of reviews is pretty good!).

Margoonyawill Thu 28-Jan-16 15:47:13

Good luck! (I suppose that peer review can be useful sometimes...) Hope you find somebody who is happy to work with you and won't want to make too many changes. It must be doubly frustrating because it sounds like you've been getting generally positive reviews overall, but still not being successful -- it just shows how blooming competitive these things are. confused

murmuration Thu 28-Jan-16 17:37:40

Yeah, the most frustrating was the last set of reviews which went from top scoring 'great project, super!' to bottom scoring 'excellent project but I don't think she can do it'. Grr. Although it give me confidence the project is well sorted now!

And things are so competitive. People recently get ERC results back, and no one across several schools got one - included Heads of School and Directors of Research and such.

disquisitiones Thu 28-Jan-16 18:15:57

I recently read an article discussing the 1.7% success rate for certain ERC cooperative grants (I think the synergy scheme).

It was estimated that more money had been spent on preparing the grants than was actually awarded as grants... such cooperative grants between many institutions/fields involve such a large amount of preparation in applying.

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