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Navigating maternity leave and returning to work

13 May 2024

Hazel Murrells is our Ecology Associate. She shares her experience of maternity leave and returning to work. Her story is filled with insights on communication, flexibility and setting boundaries.  

To shape a positive maternity leave and return-to-work experience, she emphasises employer support and keeping an open dialogue. It’s a reminder that having your employer in your corner should be the norm, not the exception!  

How did you prepare for your maternity leave?

“My initial journey into maternity leave caught me off guard,” Hazel explains. “My son arrived eight weeks prematurely, thrusting me into leave without the opportunity to transition my responsibilities properly.” 

She had more time to prepare for her second child, “This time, I was all about planning and pre-empting. I wrapped up my work by the end of October, giving myself a buffer before my due date in mid-December. Tyler Grange, and Helen in particular, were incredible. They embraced my plan with open arms, showing real flexibility and understanding.” 

Hazel details the structured approach to her leave, “We’ve got this brilliant handover spreadsheet, thanks to Helen. You list down everything—projects, tasks, ongoing responsibilities. Then, you sit down with your team leader or a senior colleague to ensure a smooth transition. It’s about dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, making sure nothing slips through the cracks.” 

Reflecting on this process, Hazel notes, “The structured handover gave me peace of mind. Knowing everything was in place, I could step away, fully focused on my family.” 

Tyler Grange's maternity and paternity support

  • Maternity benefits: at Tyler Grange, we offer 18 weeks of maternity leave at full pay, followed by an 8-week top-up to £300 per week, with the remainder of the maternity leave paid at the set government rate.
  • Paternity support: for new fathers, Tyler Grange provides 4 weeks of paternity leave at full pay. This can be taken in two blocks of 2 weeks at any time within the first 2 years after the birth of the baby. 

What aspect of Tyler Grange's support was most valuable for you?

Hazel emphasises both the tangible and intangible aspects of Tyler Grange’s support. “They went above and beyond the statutory requirements for maternity benefits. Knowing I had additional financial support provided significant peace of mind. It’s comforting to not worry about finances during such a critical time.” 

The value of this support extended beyond financial policies. “While the enhanced maternity policies are great, the real difference came from the people and the culture of care and support,” Hazel says.  

She elaborates, “From the outset, there was a genuine concern for my wellbeing. Questions like ‘Are you sure you want to work until that late?’ or reminders that I could start my leave earlier if needed, showcased their flexibility. It was reassuring to know that my plans could change based on my health or comfort without any hassle.” 

Hazel appreciates the open-ended nature of the support offered, “Helen and the HR team made it clear that there wasn’t a ‘line drawn in the sand.’ Whether it was deciding to start maternity leave earlier or adjusting my return to work, the process was incredibly flexible. This adaptability and understanding from Tyler Grange were invaluable.” 

What were the highs and lows of your maternity leave?

Hazel shares, “Those first six months were a trial, honestly. Everyone says going from one child to two isn’t as seismic a shift as having your first, but for me, it was tougher. Maybe it was the age gap, or perhaps because we’d also just moved into a new house—a ‘fixer-upper’ that added its own layer of chaos to our lives.” 

“The challenge of dividing my attention between two little ones who needed me in different ways—it was tough but incredibly rewarding,” Hazel explains. “Watching their sibling bond begin to form has been one of the joys. It’s still a juggling act as they get older, but those early days of navigating their needs laid the foundation for their relationship now.” 

How was returning to work?

Hazel talks about going back to work after having a baby, focusing on the custom support and flexibility she got. “The process was entirely initiated by me, which was empowering. There was no pressure from Tyler Grange about when to return. Instead, the conversation started when I reached out to Helen to discuss my accrued leave and the logistics of my return.” 

She appreciates the tailored suggestions for her return, “Helen proposed a phased return, leveraging the leave I had accumulated. It was just a suggestion, offering a structured way to ease back into work, but the decision was mine to make. I found this approach incredibly supportive.” 

Inclusivity and gradual involvement

Hazel also highlights the value of ‘keeping in touch’ (KIT) days, “Tyler Grange offers up to 10 KIT days, which you can choose to use or not. I opted to use all of them. These days were crucial for me to catch up on emails, attend training sessions and gradually reintegrate into the work environment without any obligation to report how I spent them.” 

“Even before officially returning, I was invited to internal meetings and company events, like the summer and Christmas parties,” Hazel adds. “These invitations came with no pressure to attend, yet they helped me feel connected and eased the transition back.” 

Hazel reflects on the ongoing flexibility, “This week marks the end of my phased return, and next week, I’ll start working four days a week. It’s still a trial to see if this new schedule fits our needs, but I’m reassured by Tyler Grange’s openness to adjustments. The flexibility and understanding they’ve shown, allowing me to lead the way in my return, have made all the difference.” 

What’s your key advice to expectant parents?

Hazel offers practical advice on managing paternity and maternity leave and the transition back to work. She emphasises the importance of communication and self-compassion for mums and dads. 

Open communication: “Keep the dialogue open about your plans for going on leave and your thoughts on returning. Being open and honest with your employer can pave the way for a smoother transition.” 

Manage expectations: “It’s crucial not to set the bar too high for yourself upon returning. While it’s natural to want to jump back in at full capacity, allow yourself some grace during this period. Most companies understand the adjustment phase, although experiences can vary!” 

Seek flexibility: “Hoping for and discussing flexibility with your employer can positively impact your return to work. It’s important to express your needs and expectations clearly.” 

Learn from others: “Don’t isolate yourself with your thoughts and concerns. Speak to colleagues who have gone through the same experience. Their insights can offer valuable perspectives and perhaps even new strategies for managing your return.” 

When employers stand by expecting parents

Hazel’s story really shows why it’s important for employers to make things easier for mums and dads-to-be at work.  

It’s a big deal for expecting parents to feel this kind of backup. Knowing their job is supportive allows them to focus more on their family’s needs and less on work worries. Dedicated support can make a huge difference in their wellbeing, helping them to enjoy this special time in their lives with less anxiety about balancing work and family. 

Enjoyed this? We love to share personal stories from the team. Check out Chantelle Schulz’s experience as a Tyler Grange partner or what Jack Jewell says about being a mentor. 

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