Imperial College Department of Surgery and Cancer reports 87% maternity return rate

Imperial College London

Imperial College London’s Department of Surgery and Cancer, which specialises in surgical and oncological practice and research, has announced that its maternity return rate has reached 87%, due to various family-friendly policies introduced since 2014.

In data gathered at the end of 2018 and released on Wednesday 6 March 2019, the department also revealed that 48% of its trainees doing research are women, a substantial increase on the 38% reported in 2014, and that the number of female scientists it employs has doubled since 2013.

These improvements are cited as a result of a commitment made in 2013 to change the department’s culture to one that supports staff to work in a way that is compatible with a healthy family life. In June 2018, this led to it joining working parent network Mumsnet’s Family Friendly programme, which encourages employers to commit to a Family Friendly Charter, and to nurture diverse talent, namely mothers and returners.

Justine Roberts, founder at Mumsnet, said: “We’ve been talking about the benefits of family-friendly approaches for years, but nothing beats the hard evidence that they work. It’s exciting to see the proof that these changes can have such impact, and in an area [like medicine and research] that hasn’t traditionally engaged with this issue.”

The department has 609 members of staff, 52% of which are female. These employees are spread across five campuses in London: St Mary’s, Charing Cross, Hammersmith, South Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster.

As part of its commitment to supporting working carers the Department of Surgery and Cancer promotes flexible working from the moment a job is advertised, provides access to My Family Care, offers 52 weeks of maternity leave and shared parental leave to all staff, including those fostering or adopting, and offers maternity and paternity mentoring buddy schemes.

My Family Care is a service that helps to access emergency childcare and school holiday cover. In addition, the department provides highchairs, changing facilities and dedicated resting and nursing rooms on all campuses.

In a 2017 staff survey, 77% of the department’s employees stated that their line managers are supportive of their requests for flexible working.

The department also reported that its Elsie Widdowson Fellowship, for academic staff returning to work following maternity, adoption or shared parental leave, has been awarded to 12 individuals since 2008. Its Daphne Jackson Fellowship, introduced in 2015 to allow female employees to work part-time over two to three years, has been awarded to two women.

Chris Peters, clinical senior lecturer and surgeon at the Department of Surgery and Cancer, said: “People and culture’ is not just a phrase to us, it means placing staff and their [families’] wellbeing at the centre of the decisions we make, ensuring our policies and procedures are flexible.”