Case Study: Dr Emma Woodfield

"In 2008 I became pregnant with my first child and she was born in December 2008. It was quite easy to understand the procedure at Lancaster for receiving maternity leave and I stopped work the week before I was due to give birth.

"My job involves doing a certain amount of fieldwork; we have installed and maintain 3 all-sky cameras that take images of the aurora borealis throughout the winter months and these are stationed in Iceland and the Faroe Islands. My line manager has been very helpful and understanding throughout and when it came a point in my pregnancy where I was unable to do the fieldwork safely we came to alternative arrangements.

"I took 7 months of maternity leave before returning to work and I came back having discussed flexible and part-time working with my line manager and we agreed that I could work 80% time, with 3 days in the office and 1 day at home a week. We filled in the relevant HR forms and my request was approved which resulted in my contract being changed and extended. The research council that funds my position (STFC) allowed the term of the grant to be extended by the amount of time I took off which has really helped.

"I make use of the excellent nursery facilities at Lancaster University for the 3 days I'm physically in work (my husband works full time) and then I make up the time for the 4th day spread across the week as my research job does not have a specific timetable. The way the Lancaster University Pre-School is run allowed me to come back to work after 7 months; I was able to take short breaks during the day to walk 5 minutes to the Pre-school and continue to breastfeed my baby which eased the transition to work and day-care significantly for both of us.

"Since returning to work I have been able to resume my fieldwork activities having been to both the Faroe Islands and Iceland, first travelling away from home when my little girl was 10 months old. To be able to travel away from home now there are obviously a lot more considerations and I wouldn't be able to do this without the help of my very supportive husband who takes on the baby duties when I'm away. Nonetheless, I am working now more or less as I did before my break, I do my research, I go on fieldwork and conferences and although I have a lot of extra responsibility outside of work I feel I am able to get a good balance between work and bringing up my daughter well.

"I think the most crucial aspects of getting back to work are: a helpful line manager backed up by good procedures in HR, outstanding nursery facilities on site and a supportive home environment. The people, facilities and procedures to make this happen are all in place at Lancaster University and for me this has worked very well.

Dr Emma Woodfield a senior research associate in the Dept of Communication Systems working on a short term contract.