Pregnancy, Maternity and Caring Responsibilities Inclusion Champion: Monica Illsley
Parents’ Support Network: Alex O’Neill
Those with caring responsibilities are facing a multitude of competing priorities at the moment, as working or studying from home is now juggled with home-schooling or caring for older or vulnerable relatives. Women can be disproportionately impacted, as they often do the majority of household chores and caring. Prospective parents may also be dealing with additional anxiety, as they prepare for an addition to their family in the midst of a global crisis.
For all those in the University community who are balancing home and work commitments, we want to assure you that we know you are doing the best you can, and that we will support you by being as flexible as possible. Managers should be supporting staff within their teams who have caring responsibilities by discussing suitable work patterns, and having open and honest conversations about what works best for individuals and adapting as necessary as the days and weeks progress. As we are all learning how to work from home, managers have been reminded to focus on work output, as opposed to time spent ‘at the desk’, which should help staff to balance their work and home priorities.
When working or studying at home, it is not always easy to follow the ‘standard’ 9-5, 5-day week, so you might find you are working at non-standard times perhaps when the children are settled down with a school task, or after you have dropped off some shopping to older relatives. For staff, please make sure that you have these conversations and come to an agreement with your manager and that you communicate with colleagues when you will be available, and also that this might be subject to change. We are all having to shift our ways of working, and your team will be supportive as we navigate through these difficult times.
Students can be assured that we will take into account your current circumstances to ensure that you will not be disadvantaged when it comes to your assessment in the Summer term. If you are unable to complete your assessment, you can simply update us using the Notified Absence from Exams form found on your MyEssex portal, and you will not need to make an extenuating circumstances claim for any disruption that has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pregnant staff and students will be contacted by their line manager or first point of contact, to regularly revisit their pregnancy risk assessment, and to see if any adjustments need to be made whilst we are working within the current context.
As well as looking after others, it is also really important that you take care of yourselves, and make sure you prioritise looking after your wellbeing. The NHS has produced guidance on taking care of your wellbeing, which includes resources and links to support services.
Our Parents’ Support network has updated its webpages for staff and students with resources, online events and activities, and you can subscribe to the mailing list to connect with other parents across the University. The Essex Women’s Network is also available to staff and PHD students who identify as women to share ideas and provide mutual support.
Remember that you are not alone, and that we are part of a community, so please do reach out to your manager, colleagues, department or the Parents’ Network if you need help or support during these trying times.