Returning to work after maternity leave is a stressful, and often emotional, time. It’s a whirlwind of planning and preparing, finding childcare, reconnecting with your professional self and working out our your family’s new schedule. And for many, the critical issue remains – how am I going to feed my baby?
As part of our current Supporting Parents Survey, FlexCareers has spoken with a number of women over the last few weeks, and returning to work after parental leave is the time that most report feeling disenchanted with their employer, and for many this was due to a lack of support for breastfeeding.
“As a new mum, breastfeeding didn’t come easy to me, ” says Angela, a HR professional, “Returning to work and trying to prise a few droplets of liquid gold from my body whilst sitting in a toilet stall, desperately hoping no-one would hear the pump squeaking, was impossible. It felt a bit degrading, and I ended up transitioning my daughter onto formula much earlier than we had planned.”
Fashion buyer Sophie, said the lack of support evident during her return to work conversations with her manager prompted her to resign; “It was a huge annoyance to my boss that I intended to continue breastfeeding when I came back to work. She was very clear that me taking a short time away from my desk to express milk would be an inconvenience.”
Around 42% of survey respondents so far report that returning to work is an extremely difficult time for new parents, and that employers are not doing enough to support them. FlexCareers CEO Natalie Goldman is keen to stress however, that whilst some employers have much to do to improve and create more family friendly workplaces, many have already taken positive steps.
One such company is FlexCareers employer partner Origin Energy. Natalie said “we are incredibly excited to be working with Origin Energy, they are a terrific example of a company that is working hard to support new mothers.”
Origin is the first energy company in Australia to provide dedicated breastfeeding facilities at remote sites and regional offices. It is a very practical example of how Origin is removing barriers for parents returning to work and improving the diversity of their workforce. Other initiatives include include 13 weeks’ paid maternity and adoption leave and five days’ paid partner leave, with options to purchase additional leave, pursue flexible work arrangements, including job-share and off-site work, take career breaks of three to 12 months, or enrol in a working parents support program.
In awarding the 2017 Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace (BFW) accreditation to Origin, the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) said Origin should be congratulated on providing breastfeeding facilities across its office locations, and had taken an extra step in providing dedicated, excellent facilities at remote and regional sites. CEO Frank Calabria said, “Expanding dedicated breastfeeding facilities from Origin’s metropolitan offices to regional offices and sites is critical in supporting breastfeeding mothers and creating a family-friendly workplace.”
Origin now has carers’ rooms with breastfeeding facilities in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, and regional offices and sites including:
- Reedy Creek production facility
- Talinga production facilities
- Miles regional office
- Chinchilla regional offices
- Condabri production facilities
- Eraring Power Station
Anje Schimpf, Senior Field Environment Advisor at Origin said the breastfeeding facilities at their Miles regional office provided the dedicated space with facilities and privacy vital to making breastfeeding mothers feel more comfortable and supported in the workplace, “The carers rooms will definitely help with the decision new mothers may need to make about ceasing breastfeeding early in order to return to work, ” she said, “And hopefully the rooms will be used by not only breastfeeding mothers but by a range of carers who are caring for babies and infants.”
Return to Work and You
If you are returning to work and are worried about a lack of breastfeeding facilities or available support, there are some steps you can take to make the transition a little easier.
FlexCareers CEO Natalie Goldman suggests opening the conversation with your employer early, and outlining what you think you will need, “Generally, we find that most employers try to be accomodating,” she says “but sometimes, it may take some thought and coordination to get it right.”
The Australian Breastfeeding Association has some great resources and a webinar for mums returning to work to help guide you through the practicalities. There is also an employer toolkit, so if your employer is keen to support you but needs some help to get started, then suggest that they check it out.
Ultimately, if your employer is unable or unwilling to provide what you need, don’t despair – there are supportive companies out there. FlexCareers work with the most progressive and flexible employers in Australian and New Zealand, and provide coaching and training to ensure that they continually review and improve policies and procedures. Natalie says, “We encourage leaders to think more holistically about supporting women to return to work, not only in transitioning back into their roles, but in creating an environment for them to thrive, and this includes giving women the opportunity to continue breastfeeding.”
About Origin Energy
Origin Energy is Australia’s leading integrated energy company focused on gas and oil exploration and production, power generation, renewables and energy retailing. Origin is Australia’s largest energy retailer with 4.3 million electricity, natural gas and LPG customers and have one of the country’s largest generation portfolios.
Origin’s has a clear commitment to diversity and equal opportunity, publicly reporting against three voluntary targets: gender and equal pay measures for work of equal value, supporting women to remain at Origin, and increasing the number of females in senior roles as a priority. Origin has also been recognised as an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
You can find out more about Origin Energy and apply for flexible jobs here.