Recruitment companies have not always been the most supportive in parental leave. Here at Oscar, we believe a flexible attitude to the challenges of life outside of work is key to improving the wellbeing of our employees.
After time off for maternity leave, we’re over the moon to welcome back Lauren Oldfield at Oscar in her new role as Learning & Development Manager. We sat down with Lauren to discuss her maternity leave experience during the pandemic, and to find out more about how she was supported by Oscar:
We're so glad to have you back Lauren, how long has it been since you originally joined Oscar?
In February, I’ll have been at Oscar for a total of six years. Five years of that before maternity leave were spent progressing through the ranks up to Managing Consultant with a team of six trainees, Consultants, and Senior Consultants. I suppose you could say I was a ‘recruitment mum’ back then, and eventually a ‘recruitment grandma’ once they took on their own teams and trainees. After nine months off, I’m now back at Oscar within a new role of Learning & Development Manager.
How long were you planning to originally have off work?
Well, my original plan was to take just four months off; although Andy (a.k.a Andy Morrell, CEO of Oscar) said from day one not to put pressure on myself with a timeframe. Recruitment can be such a full-on job, and as a billing manager with so much responsibility, it can sometimes be difficult to find that balance between work and personal life. To be honest, I didn’t even know how I was going to take two weeks off work for a holiday, let alone the four months I’d originally planned when I found out I was pregnant. I was, of course, always allowed time off whenever I needed and offered support throughout, but when you take time off as a recruiter, your targets are still there when you come back. The thought of taking time off work was daunting to me, let alone raising a child whilst doing so.
When did you realise you were going to need longer than four months off and how did Oscar respond to changes in the approach?
It was at the start of the pandemic that my priorities began to change. You start to evaluate these big factors, and I was very much of the mindset that I’d regret not taking longer than four months off with the new baby, especially as maternity leave was probably going to be spent in lockdown. I then thought that six months may be more realistic, but as time went on and things changed over the coming months, Andy would always be there to reassure me and to tell me to stop putting pressure on myself to come back. Andy was in constant contact throughout my maternity leave, as the CEO of Oscar from a professional capacity, and to check in on me and the baby; he actually passed over loads of his little boy’s baby clothes which were greatly appreciated!
So, how have Oscar supported you over the last twelve months?
Well, when I started to think about potentially trying for a baby, Andy was one of the first to know, even before my mum! My partner and I have been together for a long time, and Andy had always been very open and supportive to the idea that I would one day be having a child whilst at Oscar. The support I received throughout the whole process was far more than I could have ever imagined, but the timing of the pregnancy wasn’t great. I was just six weeks into my pregnancy when COVID-19 hit and I found out that all pregnant women had to self-isolate and work from home, which as you can imagine was a difficult time.
This style of remote working was brand-new to Oscar (now we offer a range of flexible working opportunities to all our staff), but Andy and Matt were open to the idea and provided the support and everything else I needed to make this achievable. Not so long after, everybody was in the same boat, with all members of the Oscar team having to remotely work. When I was finally allowed out of isolation, the flexibility I was given by Oscar meant that balancing everything was much easier and the workload more manageable. Andy was clear from the very start of my pregnancy that if I ever felt unwell or needed a break, no notice was needed, and I would be supported.
So, what does the role of L&D Manager look like and how have your responsibilities changed since re-joining?
Before maternity leave, I had already loved providing training. I really got a buzz from getting the most out of individuals and helping them hit their targets. There were always ideas which I believed could be truly beneficial to Oscar and which would assist in taking the company to the next level if they were implemented. When the L&D role came up, I was in the process of returning from maternity leave, and it just felt like the right time to take it on. As my team had continued to grow and flourish whilst I was off, I finally had the opportunity to do what I’d always wanted to do whilst also having the impact that I’d had on my team on a wider scale.
What made you want to move to a developmental role after being in sales?
The role of L&D Manager had always been in my sights when at Oscar, even back when I was a trainee. I was never in a rush to get into the role as building myself as a recruiter became first priority, but I’d always joke with the L&D Manager at the time that I was coming for his job one day. For me though as a billing manager, my team was my priority, and it would never have felt right to move away from them. The money also ties you in, but I’d done recruitment for that long and built up a team of such amazing people that I could never have left them for a new role at that time.
However, as COVID and my pregnancy came around, things were almost able to progress more naturally. Oscar made sure that my team was well looked after once I’d left for maternity leave - they provided them with the right people and an overwhelming amount of support. My team also had a real drive to progress in their own roles; Sophie was promoted and began to build her own team and I was lucky enough to be involved with decisions such as these, even when I was on leave. I truly did still feel like a valued member of Oscar whilst I was away.
How did it feel to be offered a part-time role upon your return and how has it been since?
As my personal priorities had changed, I was over the moon to be offered such flexible working conditions when I returned into my new role. Unlike before, I needed to think about things like childcare and making sure I was home on time to look after my new-born. Being offered the opportunity to work four days a week rather than five, whilst also having the option to work remotely whenever I needed to, have made these things so much more possible.
The transition from my previous role to this one has been seamless. Oscar have made everything so easy for me and given me so much support in the process. They really do understand everyone’s individual circumstances and cater to the individual needs of every single person. It wouldn’t matter which role you were in or how senior you may be in the company; I truly believe that the way they handled my maternity leave, and similar situations, would’ve been the same for anyone at Oscar. I know that even if I was looking to return to my previous role after returning, it would’ve been doable and made possible by the support I’ve been given, which may not have been the case at other recruitment companies. I can’t speak highly of them enough, the way they’ve handled everything has been truly admirable and I can’t thank Andy and the team enough for making the last twelve months such a breeze.
For employer guidance on maternity leave during COVID, click here.