Maternity, paternity, parental and carer issues group

Published: 23 October 2023

Jana Anderson and Elise Whitley, chairs of our mat and pat Athena Swan group, reflect on their group's recent achievements and priorities for the year ahead

Group chairs Jana Anderson and Elise Whitley reflect on recent achievements and priorities for the year ahead.

Photo of baby and parent holding hands with purple background

Our group aims to improve the work-life balance of staff who are parents or unpaid carers.

As a group we monitor data on the uptake of maternity, paternity, adoption, parental and carer leave and the uptake of Keeping in Touch (KIT) days and Shared Parental Leave in Touch (SPLIT) days. We also provide questions for the biannual SHW staff culture survey to see if there are any discrepancies by gender/contract type or job family in terms of flexible working arrangements, for example.

During the past year, our group mostly focused on three areas.

  1. Firstly, we worked on our actions around staff who are unpaid carers. We held a Zoom coffee meeting during Carers’ Week in June 2023 which we advertised and listed on the Carers Week website together with similar events organised that week. We also provided several information slides for the large screens in the Clarice Pears reception areas to raise awareness of unpaid carers and the issues they face. We maintain a MS Teams channel for staff carers called "SHW peer support for staff carers". This is a private space for current and past staff carers who wish to be part of a peer support group and offer or receive an informal support.
  2. Secondly, we focused on further actions around staff who are parents. We evaluated experiences of staff who were the past recipients of the Academic Returners Support Fund provided by the MVLS college. We found that all recipients valued receiving the funds and appreciated that the existence of this fund acknowledges that the transition back to work is not straightforward. It was also appreciated that the scheme is flexible and therefore able to fit the needs of individual circumstances. The use of funds, which included the hiring of researcher assistance, enabled the recipients to gain time to conduct other tasks and this was especially valuable for recipients adjusting to part-time hours. The research assistance also enabled recipients to focus on consolidating current or previous research, for example by writing up research articles, book chapters, and developing dissemination and engagement materials for projects. Teaching assistance was also funded. One of the learning points was that, in hindsight, several recipients would have appreciated developing plans for the fund and drafting the application prior to going on leave. This is now better reflected in the instructions given on the website. Find out more or apply for this funding
  3. Finally, we focused on a new initiative which was the accreditation and membership of Clarice Pears in the Breastfeeding Friendly Scotland Scheme. Earlier this year we moved to Clarice Pears building, the new home to SHW. The building is also a community hub and the ground floor areas are available to the public. It is in close proximity to the busy Byres Road area and a perfect place to provide support for breastfeeding to public (and our own staff). For this initiative, we had our baby feeding and baby changing facilities checked by the scheme providers and the staff who are most likely to encounter members of the public on the ground floor were provided with training. Our building is now fully accredited and you will notice new signs at the Clarice Pears’ front and back door as well as in the café. This training is now available for you to view. Please take a look as we have new responsibility to support our staff and public well.

    Photo of SHW staff standing outside the Clarice Pears building receiving Breastfeeding Friendly Scheme certificates in September 2023

Going forward, we will continue to monitor gender-sensitive issues linked to staff who are parents or unpaid carers, including lobbying for the renewal of the Carers’ Conference Fund, which is no longer available but pre-pandemic used to make a direct contribution to the additional caring costs (for child and adult dependents) incurred by staff when attending conferences or staff training. We will work on our further action points and continue to improve the support for our staff with parenting and caring responsibilities.

Jana Anderson and Elise Whitley 
SHW Athena Swan maternity, paternity, parental and carer issues group 

If you would like to join this Athena Swan group, please contact the group chairs – they'd be delighted to hear from you.

First published: 23 October 2023