Family friendly policies - Dr Carole Torsney
Dr Carole Torsney discusses her return to work after maternity leave
Dr Carole Torsney
Lecturer, Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences.
I joined the School in 2006 on a Caledonian Research Foundation Fellowship (2006-2009). Subsequently, I was employed by the School as a Senior Academic Fellow (2009-2012) and then as a lecturer (2012-present), during which time I have had two periods of maternity leave (~18 months in total), taken around 1 year apart.
The school was very supportive before, during and after my return to work. On a practical level, I was made fully aware of the different leave options, the opportunity to return to work on full pay but use annual leave to work part time initially and the government supported childcare voucher scheme. In terms of maternity leave cover for undergraduate teaching, PhD student mentoring and research I was struck by the positive attitude of the School and my line manager. Despite the disruption that maternity leave necessarily causes, at no time did I feel that I was causing inconvenience, particularly when taking a second period of maternity leave just as I was getting fully reintegrated into teaching after my first maternity leave. I found colleagues very understanding and supportive during both maternity leaves. Despite being in close contact with lab members throughout maternity leave regularly by email, phone and also occasional meetings it was reassuring to know that there was a support network in place.
On return from maternity leave there were a number of factors which positively aided this transitional period. Firstly, I had free access to a private room for nursing mothers for expression of breastmilk and a private area for breastmilk storage, which facilitated my return to work. Secondly, following the second period of maternity leave I was informed that I could if I wished be completely exempt from teaching commitments for 6 months or have a reduced/limited teaching load. I opted to return to previous teaching but not to take on any significant new teaching responsibilities during this period. I was told that if at any point I felt overwhelmed by my teaching load that this arrangement could be reconsidered - I think the School’s foresight, realistic and supportive approach to reintegrating returning mothers to teaching is commendable. Finally, during my second period of maternity leave the school initiated a mentoring scheme for individuals returning from maternity leave which I signed up for. I have been assigned to a senior female member of the school who has combined a highly successful scientific career with family life. Returning to work with 2 young children is challenging and the opportunity to discuss this independently of my scientific mentors/line manager was entirely refreshing, reassuring and overall a positive experience - one I will continue to take advantage of.
In summary, my experience is that the School does not view maternity leave and the change in contact working hours that accompanies childcare and return to work as an inconvenience or interruption to the normal running of the school. Rather this inevitable scenario is supported in a positive and I think most helpfully, in a realistic and supportive manner.