Vardags senior associate Lois Rogers has made her media debut on BBC Radio 2. Speaking to presenter Vanessa Feltz, Lois discussed the headline topic of the day: the problem of prohibitive childcare costs.
Vanessa discussed the issue with a woman who, despite being well paid, was forced to spend half her income on childcare costs. Lois was able to offer a different perspective. Having had her first baby, Leo, in July 2014, Lois was the first beneficiary of the new Vardags maternity policy. A thoroughly modern policy and one of the most generous of its kind, Lois was able to return to work gradually and ease herself back in at her own pace.
As she explained to Vanessa Feltz, flexibility is key to being able to balance the demands of work and childcare:
I’m currently on three days a week, and I’m allowed to leave work at five every day so that I can go home and put my son to bed, so I know that I’ll never miss that time with him even though I’m back at work. So despite working very long hours as a lawyer I can catch up in the evenings from home if I need to, but I don’t miss that critical time with him.
Financial concerns are the biggest cause for concern for many working mothers; research by the Resolution Foundation shows that many mothers who would like to return to work after having children are unable to do so, because the costs of childcare are so high. Lois was able to reveal that this wasn’t a problem for her because, “my firm actually makes a financial contribution towards my childcare that pays for me to have my child in a high standard of childcare in London". She explained:
I’m not at all financially prejudiced by having a child and wanting to go back to work, and I think the firm has taken the view that, if they are supportive of professionals going back to work in these early years when we have children, that we’re going to stay in the jobs and we’re going to hopefully rise to senior positions within the firm.
Vanessa seemed highly impressed. In conversation with Lois she described the Vardags approach to maternity and childcare provision as representing “absolutely the gold standard”.
Lois admitted that she was lucky to have the benefits of this attitude to motherhood, especially having discussed the issue with other new mums: “while on maternity leave you share stories with other mothers about how they intend to go back to work and how supportive or not their employers are, and I have to say it’s definitely a unique proposition".
Other employers have quite a way to go to catch up. Vanessa commented of the Vardags system, “I don’t think people even realise that such a thing could happen,". Lois revealed that she had friends who’d had quite different experiences with maternity leave and returning to work, describing it as “a real mixed bag”. She elaborated: “some employers are sort of saying, come back as you were, full time with the hours that you were working or don’t, basically”.
Lois summed up the sentiments of the discussion neatly with the exhortation that “employers definitely need to do more” to help their employees, and to make a life that includes both work and parenthood a real possibility.