Why we need to own talking about parental leave at work and how to approach it
Jayne Mizon, Head of Learning and Development at Kepak talks about the importance of a parental leave plan and how to approach common barriers and worries that women can encounter.
Whether you’re planning on starting a family or manage someone that has a young family, we need to be able to talk openly about the barriers and pressures that women face during this period of time.
Taking time out from work to start a family can be seriously daunting for a lot of us. There are so many questions that we ask ourselves: How will I cope with looking after a baby and doing a good job at work? Will there be a job for me to come back after my parental leave? Will I be overlooked for opportunities and promotions? What if the baby is ill and I need to leave work early? What if I don’t want to come back full time?
Talking openly about parental leave is crucial to breaking down some of these barriers and normalising these conversations at work is a huge step in the right direction. Talking openly and voicing worries at work about parental leave is still off the cards for many of us, but luckily, Jayne Mizon, Head of Learning and Development at Kepak delivered a personal insight into her parental leave plan during her masterclass last month.
Before you go on parental leave
Plan your approach and own it!
Before you break the news, make sure you have put a clear plan together for your direct manager and plan what you need to say to them. Jayne says “Make sure you own it and be proud! Own that message and be confident. And whatever you do, don’t apologise! I’ve heard so many people apologise over the years for being pregnant and you don’t need to!”
Engage your support network at work and home – seek out people
Engage a support network at home where possible, make a plan with your partner, family, friends or anyone else who is there to support you and Jayne says “If you have a colleague who is at a similar stage to you or has walked the road before, seek them out engage them and add them to your network as they will be a really important person to you during this time.”
Manage people’s expectations
Jayne says “Be clear on what you can do, what you can’t do and what your intentions are with work when the baby comes along.”
Consider your priorities
“Working out what’s important to you should be a top priority. Make sure you think about what’s important to you in your homelife, in your career, in your social life and as an individual. By understanding these priorities, this will help you to know what to compromise and know what to put first when the baby arrives. Use the time before the baby arrives to visualise what this looks like.”
During your leave
Relax and enjoy it – switch off from work – this is your time! Jayne says “Don’t feel guilty for not being available. It can be difficult to switch off, particularly for people who are super ambitious or are really connected to their businesses, but do try to get yourself in that mindset and wind down from work.”
“I almost scheduled my maternity leave like my work day! I scheduled in catch ups with friends, parents, grandparents and was flying around trying to fit in so much that I became exhausted!” So, make sure that you enjoy some downtime.” In terms of work, we can be tempted to promise the world, especially when we have a fear of being overlooked or replaced and that fear kicks in. But, until we have a baby at home we don’t know the reality of what that will be like. So don’t overcommit to work.” says Jayne.
Returning to work
Returning to work can be a massive hurdle that we need to overcome. A lot of women in the meat industry report to male managers who haven’t had the same experience of taking time off work for 6 – 12 months. Jayne says “There will undoubtable be a lot of empathy from male managers but as they aren’t in our shoes, we have a job to do to help them understand the practical challenges that women and working mothers face. We need to help them break down those barriers and help them to understand that perspective. My recommendation is try to address these in your return plan and be ready to counteract this if needed.”
Face into barriers
There can be a lot of barriers when returning to work, including requesting the option of flexible working and childcare concerns, but Jayne says that the best thing to do is to face into these barriers and have an honest conversation with your manager. Make sure you come up with a plan A and a plan B and focus on the value you can bring.
Jayne says “No one had asked for a phased return to work before, I was the first to request it and I asked to change me working hours from 10am to 6pm, so that if the baby had been up all night teething I didn’t turn up to work feeling rushed and dishevelled.” Don’t be afraid to ask for something different if that’s what will work for you.
Be kind to yourself
Jayne says “There will be days where you feel like you’re Supermum at work and at home but there will also be days where to turn up to work with your top on inside out. That’s just part and parcel of being a mum at work! Don’t take it too seriously, it’s totally normal – be kind to yourself!”
Lead by example and lead loudly
“More leaders and managers need to be confidence in saying ‘Yes I am taking today off because my child is poorly and I need to leave work now.’ We need to normalise it and we need more men to do this in leadership, it’s critically important!” says Jayne.
Watch Jayne’s masterclass in full by logging into the membership portal by becoming a MBW member here
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