‘I was never not offered an opportunity because I was part time’

Kate Lockett talks to workingmums.co.uk about how she has been promoted up the ranks of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency while working part time.


Kate Lockett was promoted to HR Business Partner at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency [MCA] in 2021. She has risen up the agency over the years, working a three-day week and a job share and she now works a four-day week. “I was never not offered an opportunity because I was part time,” she says simply.

Kate has been with MCA for over 16 years. She started as a Trainer in the learning and development team in 2007, having been a Personnel Manager for Tesco before that. She left in order to get a better work life balance and found the MCA job in the newspaper. Her interview was in a building on a clifftop in Dorset. “I knew when I saw it that I wanted to work there. I loved it and did not want to leave,” she says.

She worked her way up to management level, training leaders and managers, and then took a break in 2009 to have her first daughter. She was able to take 13 months off due to the MCA’s generous maternity policy of full pay for six months and added accrued leave. She went back part time [three days a week] to work on Investors in People, focused on cultural change through continuous improvements. In 2012 Kate had another break to have her second daughter and returned to the Future Coastguard Programme, working on transformative change for the coastguard service and soft skills training. In 2016 her training centre was relocated to Hampshire and her job was moved to the central HR team in Southampton. Kate’s career took off from there as there were more opportunities and roles at HQ. Two years ago she was promoted to her current role.

Flexible working

Kate now works four days a week, having tried three days part time on her own and as part of a job share after her second daughter was born She found a job share was not for her as she liked to work on her own projects rather than sharing tasks across the week.

Kate says being able to work part time has been vital for her career and that she would not have stayed at MCA if they had not supported flexible working. She adds that she managed to progress up three levels while working part time, “probably at the same pace I would have had I worked full time”. “It has never been a consideration,” she states.

In fact, she says a lot of people at MCA do not realise she now works a four-day week which she attributes in part to the culture change that has taken place since Covid and the advent of hybrid working. Kate works mainly in the office, although she can work from home if she wants to. For her, being around people is where she thrives.

Meanwhile, working a four-day week means Kate has time not only for her family, but to do something for herself. She has just set up a small business with two friends. Based in Bournemouth, where she lives, it provides pop-up grazing picnics for special occasions. Her colleagues have been very supportive and she enjoys working with her friends. “I’m fascinated by team dynamics,” she laughs.

A changing organisation

The MCA is focused into two distinct areas, His Majesty’s Coastguard and Maritime Services, which Kate works on. She is focused on improvement programmes, policy work and marine surveying. Her role, working with directors and assistant directors, involves ensuring that people are at the centre of all key business decisions and that they get the coaching and development support they need. She loves it and says the pandemic has emphasised the need for connectedness between people. Some managers adapted fairly easily to the new style of management that this required while others have needed more guidance to move from a task-focused to an individual-focused approach.

Just recently the MCA hired their first female chief executive, who is also a working mum and therefore has a good understanding of the issues around work life balance. The majority of the board are now women too for the first time. “It’s a really fascinating time to be here and I am sure it will have an impact,” says Kate. The MCA has also changed the way it recruits in recent years, with a bigger emphasis on diversity and broadening the places it looks for talent.

Over her years at MCA Kate says the organisation has gradually taken on more leaders on a part-time basis and has done a lot of work on its gender pay gap which it is reaping the rewards of now. “It has become the norm,” she says. Most jobs are now offered on a part-time basis and managers have to justify why a job can only be done full time. More men are also now working flexibly and uptake of Shared Parental Leave has increased. Older workers are also more likely to work part time in the run-up to retirement. “It’s a very fair organisation,” Kate sums up.

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