Promoted whilst on maternity leave

Hayley Spurling of Brand Learning was promoted while on maternity leave.

Pregnant adult businesswoman working at her working place in office.

Many women still face discrimination during their pregnancy or when they return from maternity leave, but for Hayley Spurling things were very different. She was promoted during her second maternity leave in 2012 and is now Group Client Director at marketing firm Brand Learning.

Hayley has been with the company since 2005 and started as an Associate Director. She has been promoted two levels since then to where she is now, which is one rank below board level.

Annual appraisals

The promotion came about as a result of Brand Learning’s thorough promotion process which is rooted in the company’s annual appraisal system. The appraisal includes feedback from half a dozen colleagues to allow for the fact that the person may be working across a range of projects. The promotion decision goes to the board and is based on whether the person has already shown themselves to have the skills necessary for it and is ready to take on extra responsibility.

Hayley’s appraisal was brought forward because of her impending maternity leave. That was in March 2012 and her promotion was put to the board and announced in the autumn when she was on leave. “It was lovely to get lots of text messages congratulating me,” she says.

Gradual return to work

When she returned to work she started back on three days a week. Gradually she increased to four days and by six months she was up to four and a half days. She has always done some ad hoc homeworking since she started at Brand Learning as the company is very flexible.

Her children go to nursery three days a week, her mum has them for one day and for the Friday she works half a day and her husband, who works from home, has them for the other half of that day. So far she has not needed emergency leave, but her husband is at home if there is any sickness to deal with.

Hayley has worked previously for major firms, including Tesco, Diageo and the BBC. She says Brand Learning has a “palpably different approach”. “In smaller companies the staff are at the heart of the business. Every aspect of growth is directly affected by the individuals who work there,” she says. “From the start Brand Learning has had a very warm, personal culture that is unapologetically ambitious and customer-oriented. It’s an unusual mix of ambition and supportiveness. It’s easy to talk about home life and you can talk about what is on your mind, which is often family. You do not have to pretend that everything is always perfect and that you are superwoman. These personal connections are so important for the culture of the organisation. We build relationships so that things happen in a motivating way.”

She adds: “There is no assumption that having children will impact your professional ability. In some companies you might feel that people think you will be less good at your job. That’s not true at Brand Learning.”

*Brand Learning won the 2013 Top Employer Award for larger SMEs.

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