In this post we’re shining a light on the positives of ‘maternity phaseback’ (a policy which allows a maternity returner to gradually build up days worked over a given period) and how to mitigate potential downsides.
We hear from Cathy Lloyd and her line manager at the time, Peter Fernandez, from RBS International.
Phaseback – a line manager’s perspective
“People buy people and if you’ve got good people, why wouldn’t you seek to retain them. The pull of a child on any mother is huge, so make no mistake about it, if the bank doesn’t make it easy, the employee might choose not to return.
Cathy is an excellent member of the team and if as a business you’re positive about a colleague, invariably clients feel that way too. Clients like continuity and if that comes at a modest price in terms of compromising that person’s absolute availability, they’re prepared to do that.
Good people still strive to deliver the absolute best for their clients irrespective of where they might actually be at any given moment in time. Working macho hours or simply being present at a desk is not really an efficient way or an effective way of working. If you know that you are working compressed time or only on certain days, then you become better at arranging your diary and managing your clients accordingly.”
Three month maternity phaseback policy at RBS
Cathy Lloyd explains why she made her request to take up the maternity phaseback policy. “The business would have kept my job open for six months, but anything beyond that and I may have been returning to a different role. Having waited so long to have my daughter, I wanted more than six months. However, being career oriented, I knew I wanted to return to the same role so there was a pull. The answer was a maternity phaseback over three months which meant in month seven I worked just one day a week and gradually built that up over months eight and nine. It allowed me to gradually introduce my daughter to nursery and get back into the work swing of things gently – it really eased the transition.”
How did maternity phaseback work in a client facing role?
“At the time I went off on maternity, I had been looking after the same group of fairly demanding corporate customers for about 5 years. Many of them knew about my struggle to have my daughter and were understanding of my phaseback and decision to work four days/week rather than full time when I returned. Customers knew if there was anything urgent I’d make arrangements and that my assistant was always on hand so there was never an issue.”
How did you position your phaseback request with your line manager?
“I was very aware that even though it’s a RBS Group policy, local line management can refuse it on the grounds that it won’t work for the business. I put together a plan to my line managers where I said ‘I’ve got a blackberry, I’ve got remote access so I can be available and I’m quite happy to work in the evening when my daughter is in bed.’ I was very conscious that the daytime was the time I wanted to spend with her and I could be flexible in the evening.
I think because I’d shown flexibility over the years, a willingness to work late and at weekends, that they knew I would be flexible to accommodate needs of clients.”
Benefits of maternity phaseback
- It stopped me from having to make a choice between a career and a family. “It was a very emotional time as I’d tried to have my daughter for so long and then it finally happening at the age of forty. I’d worked very hard on my career because I never knew whether I was going to be having children so I didn’t want to have to make that choice between wanting to have family or my career. I didn’t want to let my career go. I was conscious that a lot of people have to make the choice but I felt that with some support from the bank, I could make both things work.”
- Additional commitment to my employer. “I was willing to do things that were beyond my job responsibilities. It created an incredible amount of goodwill that I have for the bank, through very tough times and this rebuilt my belief in the bank’s vision. I remain loyal to RBS International because they have been so good to me and I give back more than my contracted hours.
- Building commitment. I think if my request had been refused and I’d needed to return within six months to secure my post it would have seriously affected my commitment to the bank. Even though they had been really good up until then, it was so important to me that I had that extra time.
Cathy, any advice to other career breakers seeking a phased return?
“Consider what impact a phased return could have on your colleagues and customers. When you make a proposal as to what you want to do, show that you’ve thought through potential pitfalls and indicate how potential risks could be mitigated. It’s unhelpful to say ‘there’s a policy so it’s what I’d like to do’ and expect others to make it work without help from you.”
Peter, a final word from you as a line manager?
“A phaseback softens that process of returning to work. You want people focussed on what they are doing here, not thinking ‘I should be with my child’ and if a gradual return makes for a secure start and a happy employee I’m all for it.”
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