ES Maternity/Paternity Mentor

Background to role

As part of its successful Bronze Award AthenaSWAN submission, the Department created the post of Maternity/Paternity Mentor. The person in this role is available for students or staff to talk to and hopefully will be able to point them in the right direction within the University for specific queries, and also to people within the department if you want to talk to someone with experience of a particular leave scheme, nursery, general chat etc.

Dr Lotty Gladstone (BP Institute & Department of Earth Sciences) took on this role from 2017. Lotty is interested in geophysical flows, in particular physical sedimentology, and combines laboratory experiments with field observations and simple modelling to understand the processes. Lotty also manages the suite of BPI Fluids Labs and has two children; she took maternity leave in 2005 and 2012, and her partner took paternity leave and ordinary parental leave.

Hi - this is Lotty. I hope to pull together many of the key links for about-to-become-parents in this webpage, along with information that is more specific to this department. Except for some of the information on taking maternity leave and the options for returning to work, most of the information should not be gender-specific - it is aimed at all primary carers. The University HR pages are very comprehensive; all I've done is pulled out some parts which have cropped up in conversation with staff/students taking leave. If there is something incorrect that you spot, out of date, or a topic/link that you would like added, please let me know.

Planning for your leave

Taking Leave

The University offers maternity leave (up to 52 weeks with 18 weeks paid, then 21 weeks statutory and the remainder unpaid), paternity leave (2 weeks paid), shared parental leave (where parents can share up to 52 weeks of leave) and ordinary parental leave (up to 18 weeks unpaid per child under 18 years old). HR have all the information together here:

Risk assessments while pregnant

While you're mulling over all the options, and as early as possible into your pregnancy, please consider your health & safety. Ideally see someone confidentially to ensure that a risk assessment can be considered particularly if your work is lab-based. Occupational Health have a simple form and having completed private assessments in my labs, I'd be happy to help with yours.

Postdocs with fixed-term contracts

If your contract is due to end during your leave, please do not panic! Talk to your PI, Lucy Matthews or myself about starting discussions for an extension. The department so far has a solid history of negotiating extensions for postdocs with external sponsors.

Childcare for 0-5 year olds

The University Childcare Office is a good starting point for figuring out the options for your family.
Note that nurseries are usually oversubscribed so it is wise to visit these and talk to people who have children at the different nurseries, and then get on the waiting list while pregnant rather than waiting until you are ready to return to work. You may need to stay flexible about your return-to-work date because it may depend slightly on when a space comes up. There is a salary sacrifice scheme available if you are using one of the University nurseries, and childcare vouchers for all other nurseries and childcare types (eg childminders).

On leave & returning


So that you can come to work for the occasional day without having to stop your leave, the University has KIT and SPLIT days (Keeping In Touch, for those on maternity leave; Shared Parent Leave In Touch for those on shared parental leave). Details on the HR site. You will be paid for these or can take it as TOIL (time off in lieu).

Graduated Return / Part-time work

There are schemes available for you to gradually ramp your return to work which can be tailored to your needs and those of your family. See the topics at the bottom of this webpage:

Funding to kick-start research on return

There is funding available through the Returning Carers Scheme to assist with your return. Examples of how these funds can be used include bringing collaborators to Cambridge (so you don't need to travel) or taking childcare help with you to a conference to enable you to attend. Details on making applications and other examples here:


Once you have school-age kids, the two issues parents commonly face are the 3.15 pickup and school holidays. Our department encourages flexible working to help you manage these, and Cambridge also has a fantastic array of fun holiday activities for children. Over the next few months I hope to put some links here for some of these. Please let me know of any you recommend so that I can add them.

  • University Playscheme (two sites incl Chesterton Community College)
  • Mad Science (various primary schools)
  • ArtyCrafts (Newnham Scout Hut)
  • Holiday Orchestra (West Road / music faculty)

What else is the Earth Sciences Department doing to help families?

  • we keep Department Meetings to within core hours (9-3) and have committed to moving the weekly Downing Site seminar to core hours too, in response to the last staff survey
  • we appreciate that many staff have no family backup in the area, for example, and a partner with similar work commitments, and therefore aim that primary carers of small children are not required to teach in the field
  • there is is the magnificent Children's Christmas Party and garden parties in the summer with all kids welcome

Please suggest other things we can do?!

Contacting the Maternity/Paternity Mentor

Please don't hesistate to contact Lotty to say hello on lotty at bpi dot cam dot ac dot uk. I am keen to help all parents juggle their family and their work how suits them best. This applies to both parents. I am based at Bullard but regularly come to the Downing Site. I am happy to talk about anything relating to leave, children, nurseries, schools etc and know many people in the department who have used the different schemes in place to help with their work and family commitments. [I like talking about science too!]

I'm also keen to talk to people who have recently taken maternity, paternity and shared leave, to find out your experiences and learn about what is working well and what can be improved, both at the University level and the department level.

Last updated: Jan 2018