Parental leave and returning to work

by Elen Jones, Director for RPS Wales, and Robbie Turner, RPS Director of Pharmacy and Member Experience

Elen Jones

Elen: Swapping the baby wipes, nappies and the bottles for policies, business plans and strategic meetings.

Maternity leave is over. In a blink of an eye, my baby boy is babbling away and walking round the furniture. He’s nine months, I just about feel like I’m getting to grips with being a mum of two and all of a sudden, it’s time to go back to work.

It’s been amazing to spend so much time with the boys; watching the little one develop and being able to take my eldest to school every day as he starts nursery has been brilliant. On the flip side, it’s often felt chaotic. The demands of two children are something else!

Three weeks into maternity leave I attended an interview and was fortunate enough to get a new role as Director of RPS Wales. 

It’s such a privilege to be returning to work and starting this role. I definitely had huge anxiety during the days leading up to my return. How will we cope with getting the boys to nursery and all be out the door by 8am? How will I catch up on the last 9 months? RPS think I’m the right person for the job, but what will members and my team really think? Impostor syndrome was creeping in! I did check out the RPS Return to Practice guide which helped allay some of my worries. I’ve been back in work for two weeks, and I miss my boys very much. Fortunately, my youngest has settled into nursery quite well (better than his big brother did!)

If I’m really honest, I’m actually feeling more like me again. I’m back to feeling more in control, enthused by the work and by my colleagues.  I’m full of ideas, getting out there and speaking to like-minded pharmacists. I’ve caught up with lots of our members already, everyone’s been so kind and supportive.

The sleepless nights unfortunately don’t stop when you return to work, but I don’t mind them as much now, time with the boys has become more precious. I so look forward to getting back from work to their big smiles and hugs.

So, a big thank you to all my colleagues and our amazing members for all the support and your patience while I’ve been away! I look forward to working with you all to make sure RPS and pharmacy continue to go from strength to strength.

Robbie Turner

Robbie: This year I’m going to get an extra three months off work. And, I’ve been surprisingly anxious about it.

Not that pre-holiday anxious when you’re trying to work out exactly how much ludicrously expensive sun cream to pack so you don’t need to bring any back with you. No, it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe but I bet there are millions or people (mainly women) who have experienced it even more deeply than me.

My partner Ben and I are soon (everything crossed) going to adopt two children. We’ve been aiming to make this a reality for over a year now. A big thank you to work friends and colleagues who have given me support and advice over the last year. Your words of encouragement have been hugely helpful. But, nobody warned me about this bit – preparing for paternity leave.

I know we’re lucky at RPS to have a good paternity leave entitlement. As part of our work on inclusion and diversity we identified that our gender pay gap was too high and introducing paternity pay was one of the tools we put in place to start to be a better employer for both men and women. Check out this article “Men’s parental leave is key to women’s progression

I’d like to think that I’ve always been supportive of women (and I think it has always been women who’ve taken any form of parental leave in my teams) when they announce the news that they are pregnant. I’ve cried a few times, but that’s always been with excitement rather than thinking about covering their maternity leave! I know this isn’t the experience of lots of women and that’s one of the reasons why I’m committed to taking my full paternity allowance. What I’ve never considered is what could be going through an expectant mother’s mind when they’re thinking about taking parental leave. And I now have a small insight into both their perceptions AND the realities..

I work with a great team who are brilliant at their jobs.  Even then, I’m worried about the added pressure me going off for three months will put on them.  BUT, when I really reflect, my main worry is the complete opposite. It’s that I will get found out as a bit of a fraud. That everyone will cope just fine without me or (arghhhhh) that it will be even better when I’m not here interfering and distracting people. Will I still have a job at the end of it all? How much will the world of pharmacy have moved on – will I be able to catch back up?

So, if I’m feeling like this – a (fairly confident), white man, in a senior role, only going on paternity leave for three months – then what must it be like for others who don’t have the same privilege of gender, colour, or seniority facing up to a year away from the work place?

Now, when women (and increasingly, men) tell me their great news about their pregnancy or adoption I’ll be just as excited but I’ll also understand how stressful planning for parental leave can be. Wish me luck!

Are you returning to practice? Check out our Return to Practice guide which is packed full of practical advice and tips to help you return to the workplace with confidence.