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Working at York St John

Work-life balance

Hear from our staff on how family friendly policies and flexible working have benefited their work-life balance.

A staff member with students on a geography field trip.

At York St John, we know that work-life balance is essential to our staff. We have a range of flexible working policies to make sure that all staff feel comfortable in their working arrangements.

We provide flexible working options for many of our roles, and specific support for maternity, adoption, and parental leave arrangements, including shared parental leave. This includes 26 weeks of paid occupational leave for adoption, maternity and shared parental leave.

Explore the drop-downs below to hear from some of our staff on how our policies have improved their working experience at York St John.

Abi Curtis

Professor of Creative Writing

Hear about Abi's experiences of shared parental leave, returning to work, and family friendly policies.

I took shared parental leave (SPL) with my first child in 2015, the first year that it was introduced. So not only was it new to me, but to HR at that point too. My husband and I took time off together for some of the leave, a feature of SPL that was not well known at the time.

I took 6 weeks SPL near the start of my maternity leave, some more in the middle, and 6 weeks towards the end of my maternity leave. We had a month where my husband looked after my son before he went to nursery. I used my accrued but untaken annual leave during this period to extend my leave which was financially beneficial.

I was successful in applying for an Associate Professorship whilst I was taking SPL and I was encouraged to do so by my Head of School. I was teaching Wednesday nights on the MA programme and then worked 4 days and had Fridays off for childcare. I don't remember this being formalised but was done as a local arrangement.

I worked this arrangement until my son was 3 years old, and then on Fridays he went to preschool at his local primary school during school hours. The 4 days worked well and I was efficient with my days. Before I had children, I was at work all the time so having these boundaries in such a demanding job worked well.

My role changed and expanded again after I was back from maternity leave. I got my professorship 18 months later. Then in 2020 had my second child, born 2 weeks before lockdown. We did a similar arrangement for SPL as first-time round.

My line manager has been a very supportive manager. I wanted to work 5 days over 4 days, but this was deemed to be too stressful. We agreed in a month that I would work 20 days into 18, one week I work 5 days and then the other week I work 4 days.

Returning to work while breast feeding was difficult and withdrawing from breast feeding can have a physical impact. The lack of sleep is challenging (but this is hidden). I was grateful for my team who were kind and supportive.

York St John has a real drive to help promote women into senior roles. Nationally there are fewer women than men who are getting promoted into professorships.

Removing the requirement to provide an international referee for promotions criteria for academic promotions has helped. It can be much easier for a man to attend an international conference abroad and this is potentially more difficult for women.

The University is keen to support women in senior roles, and it is important to note the value of flexible working and all the relevant family friendly policies available to staff. Dependants leave is another example. It's really useful when your children are ill and not able to attend nursery or school.

Amy Lansdown-Nasson

Head of Communications and Media Relations

Hear Amy's experience of flexible working at York St John.

My role means that I often need to be on campus for events, interviews or media visits but when I'm writing, or have lots of online meetings, it's really helpful to be able to work flexibly from home.

My line manager has always supported me to work flexibly and I feel trusted to manage this independently. In turn, my team and I work very effectively to balance work on campus with remote working. We are all in the office together at least 1 day a week, plus ad hoc days when we need to cover something in person. We meet regularly, we understand each other's working patterns and we adjust workloads to maintain a consistent service. Using Teams and online communication platforms makes it easy to collaborate and we are responsive and productive as a result.

On campus, I work in a large, open plan office, which is great for connecting with colleagues but it can be busy sometimes. I try to plan my work from home days around the times when I need to meet deadlines or work quietly. My full time hours sometimes extend into evenings or weekends, which I don't mind, because I know I have the flexibility to balance that out when possible.

I have 3 teenage children, a dog and older parents living nearby, so having the flexibility to manage family arrangements on occasion is incredibly valuable. It means I can start early or finish late, knowing that I can meet deadlines and achieve a work-life balance. I've worked for employers before who have not offered flexible working, so I appreciate having the option and it makes me feel loyal to York St John.

Lauren Bedford

Lecturer in Physiotherapy

Hear about Lauren's experiences of pregnancy during the pandemic, maternity leave, and keeping in touch and returning to work.

My partner and I didn't have an easy journey to parenthood and underwent IVF treatment. It can be a difficult thing to talk about, particularly in the workplace, but I found that I could open up to my manager. I was able to work flexibly around appointments and felt that the environment was supportive.

I found out I was pregnant literally just before lockdown and everyone began working from home. Pregnant women were considered to be in a vulnerable group at this point and I remember even when people began returning to campus, the University was very understanding about my situation. I did virtually everything working from home. My manager was also really flexible with regards to me attending midwife and hospital appointments. Working remotely added to this flexibility, because a lot of those appointments weren’t face to face anyway.

My manager put me in touch with the HR team and they were excellent, I had no problems at all. We had direct conversations explaining the policies for me and they set me up a digital folder so that I could access all the information. This was useful before I went off on maternity leave but also whilst I was on leave. It made the process very clear and set specific time frames as to when it was best to get in contact to discuss things like returning to work. We'd made a plan before I went on leave about what I may be doing when I come back, but you can never guarantee that can you?

Keeping in touch days were really useful. I'm the admissions lead for our undergraduate programme so I used a couple to come back for results day and to arrange offers, plus some hours for important meetings. With regards to the team that I work with, I was still in very regular contact throughout my maternity leave with a lot of them. I kept quite in the loop with what was what was going on and that was my choice, they weren't involving me in things unless I wanted to be.

When I returned to work I was breastfeeding and I felt very well supported with this. I talked to my manager and was given a dedicated room that I could use to express. Although I didn't need to use it for many weeks, it was great to have this available and the support was important to me.

Dr Robert Barnes

Senior Lecturer in History

Hear about Robert's experience of paternity leave and flexible working.

My experience with paternity leave was positive and I found my line manager very supportive. He has a young family himself too. Our son was born during the Easter break and arrangements went well. My teaching was covered by a PhD student, so they got some teaching experience and then they covered more of my teaching through the year.

I took the full 2 weeks paternity leave and was able to take annual leave as well during the Easter break. I didn't want to take more as it was exam season and marking season so that needed to be covered. My wife took maternity leave.

My wife and I going back to work has been a transition and a challenge for us as a family. But the flexibility to adjust my hours and work away from the office, when teaching allows, is working out well. We're having an extended trial period for the flexible working arrangements to ensure that they suit both myself and York St John. There may need to be some minor adjustments and we'll figure these out during the trial period.

Our son seems pretty settled into nursery and we've had plenty of time to make the necessary childcare arrangements. I'll be doing one half day and some longer ones and have been able to arrange later start times to accommodate my childcare and commuting needs. We're making it work for us.

I'm aware of dependants leave, and that cover can be arranged if needed. Other members of the team will step in should I need to take unpaid leave for a breakdown in caring arrangements.  We have all taught on each other's modules so I know I have the full support of my colleagues should there be an occasion where this is necessary.