Maternity/Adoption/Shared Parental Leave focus groups — feedback and next steps

December 13th, 2017

We recently held a series of focus groups to explore experiences of taking maternity/adoption/shared parental leave and returning to work following that leave.

Focus groups took place at five campuses (University Park, Jubilee, QMC, Sutton Bonington and Derby) with a good number of staff attending – two of whom brought their babies along. There was good representation across the institution, a balanced attendance in terms of gender, and great feedback from attendees. Attendees told us they felt that their voice had been heard and that the issue felt important. One added that they felt good ideas had been generated and would be taken further.

Attendees also described a range of experiences including difficulties in balancing work and home responsibilities while often also getting used to a new life role. The positive impact of a supportive and understanding line manager, good communication, and flexibility to carry out work and home responsibilities was a strong theme across the groups.

The feedback from the focus groups has been invaluable in helping identify the actions to be taken forward to improve people’s experiences of preparing for, taking, and returning from maternity/adoption/shared parental leave, as well as effectively supporting staff around these key points in their working lives.

As a result of the feedback, we are establishing Athena SWAN Parenting Rooms; dedicated spaces to support staff and students breastfeeding or expressing breast milk, should they prefer to do so in a private location. Look out for an update in February.

A Maternity Checklist is also in development to support conversations, trigger actions, and help make it easier to plan for and return from maternity/adoption/shared parental leave, by supporting better understanding of the key areas for consideration and discussion. The checklist has been circulated to focus group participants and is being revised following feedback before wider release.

Other ideas generated from the focus groups will be explored by a group specifically set up to consider support for working parents, sponsored by Professor Marion Walker, APVC for Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity. We’ll let you know more in the New Year. If you would like to get involved in this group, please contact the People and Culture team.

Thank you to all of the focus group participants who have given up their time to support this important work both within and outside of the groups. You are making a real difference to the ways in which the University supports working parents.

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