Working towards gender equality Returning to academia after parental leave: An exploratory study of the experiences of new mothers and fathers

UoM administered thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology

  • Authors:
  • Sofia Xiromeriti


Background and objectives: Despite a large amount of literature on parents in academia, to date there has been limited empirical research into the area of returning to work after parental leave. This study is original in looking at this topic from the perspective of UK based academics. Given the stressors faced by parents who return to work after parental leave, it is important for counselling psychologists to look into this issue. Therefore, the overarching purpose of this study was to explore academic mothers and fathers’ experiences of returning to work after parental leave in a research-intense University. Method and analyses: A qualitative design was employed to explore the experiences of returning to work after parental leave of fifteen academic parents across the whole institution. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, and the transcripts were analysed using the reflexive thematic analysis approach. Findings: Qualitative findings highlighted five themes within the data: ‘Concerns about returning to work’, ‘Adjustments to new work patterns’, ‘Organisational factors influencing return to work’, ‘(Perceived) division of childcare responsibilities’ and ‘Impact on career progression’. Conclusions: The key areas which influenced the experience of returning to work after parental leave were: the access to paid parental leave; the experience of flexibility that academic work entails and the negotiation of academic and parenthood identity and roles. Potential implications for counselling psychology and organisations, limitations and suggestions for further research are discussed.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date31 Dec 2020