Taking maternity leave in an academic institution can often prove to be a bit of a Balancing Act. In our second piece in the series, Jennifer Simeon, who has worked in the Department of Surgery and Cancer as Postgraduate Education Administrator for over 5 years, talks about her experience of taking maternity leave as professional technical operational staff-member (PTO).
I have worked within this role for 5 of the 7 years I have been with Imperial College London. Within the College, the Department of Surgery and Cancer is a great place to work and my time there has been a journey of experiencing and overcoming new challenges. I have gained a huge amount of knowledge from my role, developing new skill sets through the training I have been supported to take. My line managers have always been extremely supportive with regards to my progression and flexibility. This became more apparent when I went on maternity leave for 10 months.
I luckily work in an environment where women do not feel burdened to announce their pregnancy. I felt very relaxed and comfortable when delivering my wonderful news, and it was genuinely visible that the team were happy for me. I went off on maternity leave in March 2017 and returned to work in January 2018. In the lead up to my departure my manager allowed me to alter my working hours to suit my commute, and to avoid the rush hour crowd. I was also able to attend antenatal classes freely without any concerns, and I was given the option of working from home on days where I thought the commute would be too strenuous on me. Imperial’s HR staff were extremely helpful in explaining our maternity leave policy, including my entitlements as an employee. Throughout my pregnancy, I had regular meetings with my manager, so we could discuss ongoing support and the possible options around returning to work after my maternity leave.
Since returning from maternity, I have felt very supported. I was given the opportunity of flexible working which has made my life as a new full-time working mother less stressful and a lot more manageable than anticipated. Through motherhood I have learnt how to balance my work and personal family life; before this I was extremely hopeless at juggling the two. Though my workload can be demanding, my good working relationship with my senior managers means that I feel comfortable voicing any concerns that may arise.
Overall, I feel very grateful for the support I have been given by the Department and I am extremely lucky to work with such great colleagues.
Read the first Balancing Act piece from Dr Véronique Azuara, Reader in Stem Cell Biology.