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Insights What is maternity leave like at Atkins?

Hannah's return to work after maternity leave

When Hannah started her maternity leave in July 2019, little did she know she'd soon be locked down in a pandemic. Read her story to find how about making flexible working work for you.
Image of Hannah
What was your maternity experience like?

I started my maternity leave before the pandemic in July 2019. So, it was what I’d imagined. I saw family and met friends for baby groups and swimming. 

I really feel for those mums and dads who were not able to do those things early on. I found that so important. It helped me build a support network, get us into a mini routine and get over the initial shock of having a new human to care for!

When the full lockdown came in March, I felt sad that Evie would be missing out on time with friends and family. Like everyone else, we adapted our interactions with people—zoom baby sensory, which just wasn't the same! 

"We also spent lots of time in nature, which was lovely."

I was worried about the effect of being physically isolated from people would have on Evie. Looking back now, I don't think it was an issue. Evie wasn't at an age where she would understand what was going on... or at school with me juggling childcare and work. I don't know how I would have coped, and I'm in awe of parents who had to do that. 

That said, I definitely had some tough days, and I'm glad it seems like there is a light at the end of the COVID tunnel. 

How did the company support you during that time?

I was empowered to have control over my interaction with work. There are points in your maternity leave when you don't have any space or time to even think about work. But there are also times when you start thinking about what your return might look like, and you do want to get more involved. 

"I had catch-ups with my manager about every three months and more regularly closer to returning, which really helped. Keeping In Touch (KIT) days were also a great way to stay connected."

What keeps you at Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group?

I’ve been here for 10 years and one of the main things I enjoy about the job is the people. Our team is great and so supportive. Also, in HR, our key stakeholders are the employees and managers we work with. I have to say, I really enjoy meeting different people and learning more about their particular roles.  

"The ParentNet and Mindfulness at Work networks have been great lifelines. Knowing you can call on people for help if needed and feeling you're not alone. I've really enjoyed speaking to colleagues about kids and sharing experiences."

At Atkins, there's always more to learn about how the company operates. I've worked in a number of teams and roles within HR over the years. I've had plenty of opportunities to develop and grow in each position, as well as move laterally.

I've definitely benefited from development opportunities. I was supported in gaining a Master's in HR Management. Being qualified with HR's professional body (CIPD) has been a great experience. 

I've also appreciated the working pattern, work task flexibility and support in the last few years.

What has flexibility looked like for you?

I submitted a flexible working request to reduce my hours to three days a week which was supported. I had some open and honest conversations with my manager about how my hours would meet my (and Evie's) needs and business needs.  

"For me having Evie has meant there is someone else to factor into every decision. It's not that your career isn't important to you anymore. It's that your responsibilities have grown outside of work, which has to be balanced. Life is all about balance!"

How did you find working part-time?

At first, I felt I had to apologize for this in certain situations, which now seems ridiculous! But I have a great manager and a really supportive team. My manager and I had some frank conversations, and he made it clear that I am supported in managing my own workload. It's up to me, to be honest about what I can do and not take on too much. 

"For me it was about trying to focus on keeping the right balance, having the necessary conversations and being open about what you can do. All roles are different, but it's ok to make your manager aware if you are taking on too much work for your hours!"

Several of my team members are part-time, so it's been really useful getting tips and support from them on managing my workload. It's hard sometimes with the nature of our work, especially when managing a case and setting expectations on timelines. It took a while to get to grips with as I was so used to working full-time hours, but now it works well.

How is Evie doing these days?

She'll be two in July, which is unbelievable! Her speech and understanding have really developed in the last few months, and it's so incredible seeing how quickly she learns and picks things up. You have to be careful what you say, though!

Hannah's role at Atkins

Hannah is a Senior HR Advisor in the South East Regional Operations team. Her role is supporting employees and managers on crucial HR issues, including managing sickness absence, grievance and disciplinary. 

In her people-facing position, time is spent on meetings, calls and emails. This could be supporting a meeting between an employee and line manager on a performance improvement process. She might put a referral through to Occupational Health to get recommendations on adjustments for an employee with a health condition. She also gets involved in work or meetings for procedure improvement. 

An important part of her work is reviewing our processes and procedures regularly, ensuring they're inclusive, up-to-date and fit for purpose. 

Find out more about flexible working at Atkins

Why not find out more about how Atkins supports and invests in our female employees at all career stages? Or hear from one of our male colleagues why flexible working is not just for mums.