Returning to work after maternity leave is a challenge for women. The thought of balancing a professional life with motherhood can cause concern and, in some cases, anxiety for new mums.
The College believes that staff are our most valuable resource and therefore seeks to support women in their return to work by providing practical solutions. In consultation with staff, the College created a private, safe and comfortable space for new mothers to continue expressing milk upon their return to work.
The room includes a kitchenette with a fridge and running water, storage facilities and comfortable chairs and soft furnishings.
Whilst the initial request was made by one staff member, the desire for such a space was echoed by numerous female staff looking to return to work in 2022. To begin the process, the College consulted with CEWA employment relations to better understand our responsibility to provide a safe, hygienic and private place for the returning mothers. We sought advice from Fair Work Australia to ensure we were meeting all obligations and mandated requirements.
Staff volunteered their time to paint the walls, and staff who had welcomed new babies in 2021 were encouraged to provide baby photos to decorate the room and make it feel hospitable and homely.
The delivery of this project has increased opportunities for new mothers to return to the workforce. The ability to continue breastfeeding whilst resuming a career continues to be fought for by many women, and through the creation of this mother’s room Our Lady of Mercy College has taken a step towards enabling more equitable career opportunities and future financial stability for new mothers.
Furthering this, the project had wide-reaching community impact. When the College was hardest hit by staff absenteeism due to COVID-19, the ability to engage a breastfeeding mother as a relief teacher, was welcomed by the College and the mother.
Upon the completion of the room, feedback from the mothers was sought.
A staff member stated, “Returning to work after maternity leave was a daunting decision. After a bumpy start to my breastfeeding journey, knowing how good it was for my daughter's immune system, I knew it was something that I did not want to give up.
I approached my principal to let him know that I would need a private and adequate space to express in. Our school is very open, with lots of glass and windows; I knew that finding a private space would be a challenge. The team has gone above and beyond to create a private, homely space where mothers can come in and have the hustle of the school dulled, and a chance to catch their breath (and remember to eat and drink something).
The outcome was beyond expectation and is an invaluable tool which will assist many mothers who are returning to work.”
This project has been nominated for a Quality Catholic Education (QCE) Award. You can vote through this link:
The 2022 QCE Awards recognise programs and initiatives in Catholic schools across Western Australia that support the vision of providing Christ-centred, student-focused engaged learning environments.
The Awards celebrate the remarkable efforts and dedication of Catholic school communities, staff and students across our state, identifying, commending and showcasing the very best of Catholic education in Western Australia.
In 2022, schools were able to nominate across four categories that are informed by the four Pillars of Strategic Directions and Quality Catholic Education:
Our Lady of Mercy College Mother's Room was nominated in the Stewardship category. For more information and an opportunity to vote, please click on the link below.