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University of Lincoln, Finalist 2014, The Citymothers Best for All Stages of Motherhood Award

The University of Lincoln provides a suite of support for employees through all stages of motherhood. The university has made every effort to help employees balance their work and personal commitments and at the same time pursue career development and growth.

The university has a set of provisions, along with a ‘supporting new and expectant families’ policy. These are widely promoted as part of the benefits package from the outset of employment, and are continuously communicated via the internal communication channels and a ‘me at Lincoln’ well-being site. Recognising that individual circumstances are different, the university’s policies include maternity, paternity, adoption, parental and emergency leave. Expectant mothers can take paid time off work to attend their antenatal appointments (including any time needed to travel to the hospital, GP or clinic) and also to attend relaxation classes and parentcraft classes. Enhanced maternity pay provides mothers with better financial benefits during the period of their maternity leave. They can also benefit from a generous leave entitlement and additional concessionary days that accrue during their maternity leave.

In order to allow mothers to stay in touch and connected with the university during their period of maternity leave and also to ease return, Lincoln offers paid ‘keep in touch days’ and a phased return to work to help to smooth the transition back into the workplace. In addition, the recently introduced R2F scheme (Returner’s Research Fund) provides a unique opportunity for mothers in science to apply for up to £10K research funding to help sustain research activities during or after their maternity leave.

Mothers can request flexible working, including job share, at any point while bringing up their children. Other flexible arrangements, such as time off for emergencies or unpaid leave options, have been incorporated into the university’s policies and procedures. Managers are encouraged to approach requests for flexible working in a positive manner and work with staff to find and agree mutually acceptable flexible working solutions.

Mothers and fathers can purchase childcare vouchers. While the university does not have nursery facilities, it has actively established a good relationship with a privately owned nursery located within the campus which offers special rates for university staff. To help employees deal with childcare breakdown, Lincoln has developed a guiding statement, ‘Children in the workplace’, which allows employees to bring their children (who are old enough and capable of caring for themselves) into work. Grandmothers as well as mothers can benefit from other policies under the heading of work–life balance, which enable them to take a reasonable amount of time off work to deal with a broad range of circumstances, such as unexpected or sudden emergencies.

The university’s senior management team fully supports mothers. Senior females are willing to share experiences of balancing career and motherhood. Through their ‘WiSE at Lincoln’ website, female academic colleagues who successfully progressed their careers while bringing up their children and meeting other family commitments share their personal stories. The work–life balance aspect is also covered in the talks and events organised by specific focus groups such as Women into Research Network.

In the recent staff survey (2013), 74% of employees agreed that the ‘university provides good support to help them balance their work and personal commitments’, and 84% of employees confirmed that they ‘can approach their manager to talk openly about flexible working’. In addition, in a recent ‘Employer of Choice’ benchmarking report, Lincoln was ranked second out of 44 higher education institutions.