How comms pros can maximise maternity leave

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How comms pros can maximise maternity leave

How can professional communicators plan their maternity leave and what advice and guidance exists to help them make decisions?

As mum to a two-year-old daughter and preparing to give birth to twins at the end of the year, my thoughts are inevitably turning to managing my business and existing clients. Plus I’m scoping out what my maternity leave looks like (noisy!).

CIPR Today the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has revealed a package of solutions intended to help women in PR “successfully navigate the challenges of maternity leave and return to work, statistically one of the biggest causes of the gender pay and equality gap” – perfect timing!

I was given a preview of this new range of benefits last week and welcome their introduction. There’s some hugely beneficial elements in there, not just for women, but their organisations too.

I’d like to congratulate CIPR Board Member Sarah Hall, @Hallmeister, FCIPR, and Owner of Sarah Hall Consulting, who led this work successfully on behalf of members. Thank you Sarah!

The reality of (my) maternity leave

I found my maternity leave in 2012/3 one of the most invigorating times of my life, and not just for all the skills I learnt as a new parent. Becoming a mum was the biggest change programme I’ve been involved with to date, but a delightful one and a role I’m immensely proud to fulfil.

During my maternity leave I spoke at Facebook as part of Social Media Week 2012, contributed a chapter on using social media for internal communication in a book – Share This: Social Media Solutions for PR Professionals (Wiley, 2012), attended the book launch at Google, managed the social media accounts for the National Childbirth Trust, NCT, and set up my own company.

Mat leave guideHowever one of the biggest sticking points for many women, which I’ve certainly experienced from conversations with people in my network, is making decisions about what to do around the whole issue of having children.

Not just whether to have them, but what impact this could have on careers, what your return to work looks like – whether you’ll have a gap for a couple of years while you concentrate on a young family for example – or whether to use it as an opportunity to retrain and do something entirely different (like I did, moving from an in-house role to establishing my own business) or perhaps adjust working hours.

When there are little people involved and bills to pay, your career decisions affect more than just you. Understandably this means that families – including partners/carers – need to take the time to think through options and plan effectively.

I’ve met with a handful of women over the past few years who were on the verge of returning back to work post-mat leave, to give them a crash course in “what you may have missed during your leave.” I’ve taken them individually through new social media platforms, industry news etc, so when they go back into the workplace they don’t have a gap in knowledge.

Part of the package from CIPR includes regular Keeping in Touch emails – this is such a clever move and long overdue, to help keep up-to-date on what’s happening.

What the CIPR offers members

From Monday 1 September 2014, their ‘Managing Your Maternity Leave’ package for members includes:

  • Up to 12 months’ payment holiday from CIPR membership
  • Up to 12 months’ discretionary CIPR Continuing Professional Development (CPD) credits
  • 10 bespoke guides on managing maternity leave and returning to work in public relations
  • Quarterly KIT (Keeping In Touch) emails
  • access to a private online community (LinkedIn)
  • Legal and business helpline.

CIPR members who are currently on maternity leave, or who are due to go on leave in the next three months, should contact the CIPR Membership Team at: membership@cipr.co.uk.

Download the guide
You can access a guide from CIPR now and don’t have to be a member to do so:

Managing your maternity leave

What does research say?

The package is announced in context of last week’s research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) which suggested that “women begin to fall behind at the age when they are most likely to be starting a family”, and from research published on 12 August 2014 by Slater & Gordon which found that “a third of managers would rather employ a man in his 20s or 30s than a woman of the same age for fear of maternity leave, and that six in ten mothers felt side-lined from the moment they revealed they were pregnant”.

Gosh. That’s a whole other blog post…

RubyThe move from CIPR has been supported by Ruby McGregor-Smith, CBE, (pictured) Chair of the Women’s Business Council and Chief Executive of Mitie Group plc, the FTSE 250 strategic outsourcing company.

She said: “As a leading employer of women in the UK, we at Mitie understand the importance of attracting and retaining the best talent to ensure the long-term success of our business. Supporting women through maternity and their return to work is such a valuable investment and it’s great that the CIPR and public relations industry is taking an active lead in this area.”

sarahSarah Hall (pictured) said: “As the professional body for an industry that is over two-thirds female, we should be an exemplar to other sectors and this is just the start of the CIPR taking a more active role in gender equality, diversity and professional ethics.

“At present, the public relations industry loses talented women at an inexcusable rate. There is a multitude of reasons for this, from a lack of support as female practitioners move into leadership positions, right through to engrained attitudes and processes that are at odds with the needs of both organisations and individuals today.

“A key area that requires attention is the maternity leave process, which can be very challenging for all concerned. Knowing your rights as an employer and employee is vital for organisations and their best talent to be able to navigate this time successfully. This is why we have made this a priority and developed a number of guides and support mechanisms that I certainly wish I’d had access to when thinking about having a family and then when my children were born.

“However this is only a small part of the work that is ongoing. We still have a huge nut to crack. The issue of the gender pay gap, which currently stands at around £12,000, is not going away. It is absolutely unacceptable that men are, on average, earning this much more than women even when performing exactly the same roles. As such, this is where our focus will be until we have done everything we can to help our female members achieve parity and we will be looking to our members and the wider industry to help us achieve this goal.”

AMAlastair McCapra, CIPR Chief Executive, (pictured) said: “This package is a first for a professional body in the UK and a unique offering for the public relations profession. We have done our research and listened to our members, delivering a range of solutions which recognises that professional women who decide to start a family require a combination of access to financial support, employment advice, up-to-date industry knowledge and guidance, and access to a peer support network, to successfully navigate the challenges of maternity leave and then return to work confidently.”

You can find out more info via the CIPR website, including terms and conditions.

What do you think about this new initiative from CIPR?

Further reading
The upcoming IC conference from CIPR Inside is happening on 2 October. The early bird rate for tickets (to save £100) is on for the next fortnight – you can find full information here.

Post author: Rachel Miller.

First published: 27 August 2014.

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