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9 July 2024

How Cygnet supports their staff who are looking to start a family


Donna has been an OT for almost 17 years. She started out in the NHS and spent several years there before coming to Cygnet over 4 years ago.


Within 4 months of joining, Donna was promoted to a Clinical Team Lead (CTL) and is a Band 8.

We ask a self-confessed workaholic about her recent experience becoming a Mum for the first time. 

Hey Donna – thanks so much for your time: 

Can you tell us about your journey to pregnancy and then your ‘Return to Work’ in terms of your experience of Cygnet as an employer?  

Prior to getting pregnant with my now son, I had been pregnant before and got quite far along but unfortunately lost the baby. So my situation was a bit different to the ‘normal’ journey of announcing pregnancy at work.  

My OT Director and the Hospital Manager at Salford were so supportive, right up to the end, when I finally went off on maternity leave. 


Did you finish your role well in advance of your due date or were you one of those people who worked up until the last date possible? 

As last minute as you can get – I joined a Cygnet online conference to collect an award while I was in labour!


Wow – you must be the only person in healthcare or at Cygnet to have accepted an award whilst in labour?!  

Probably! Even though I’d had a few health issues during pregnancy like high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia, I wasn’t one of those who was “I want to get this baby out”! 

I was quite happy with him being in there! 


How long did you decide to take off on maternity leave? 

I felt quite unwell during maternity leave. I had PN anxiety and became very anxious and overanalytical and this meant I didn’t enjoy maternity as much as I thought I would.   I was worrying about my son all the time. I decided to go back to work after 9 months off, rather than doing the full 12 months that I could have done. 


Did you need flexible work arrangements agreed with Cygnet upon return? 

Cygnet were brilliant – I asked for Friday’s off and got it without any issues. They offered me a phased return but I wanted to go straight back into it. 

I had so much brilliant support – from Kay Bolton my OT Director and the Hospital Manager. 

Initially I still had some anxiety and was checking the nursery apps all the time. 

But Kay gave me regular supervisions and we talked about things like this, during our monthly supervision time. 

They also made me feel I was fully in control of my return and reassured me I could do whatever I needed. They were led by me. For example – during the phase where baby needs lots of injections, they told me to do every appointment and not to worry about anything. 

We also talked a lot about ‘Identity’ within these sessions. I think Motherhood made me feel I had lost my previous identity: 

I was a workaholic, an OT, Irish and a singer for example. I’d suddenly become a Mother which changed everything about how I viewed myself and what I should be doing – some catholic guilt thrown in there too obviously! 


The Supervision sessions that come with working in therapeutic roles sound really useful not only to your CTL lead role but as a “Mother returning to work”? 

They are! As a therapist, we’re definitely not great at applying the same advice and techniques we encourage our patients and service users to do – typically! 

But in theory – yes as an OT we talk a lot about balance – we encourage our patients to make sure their routine is built on: Self-care, productivity and leisure. 

It’s funny that I started to realize I needed to “O.T myself”! 

Over the last 14 months being back at work, that has started to happen.  I’m now getting back to being myself – going to the gym and seeing friends as well as doing my job and having Friday’s with my son. 


Cygnet sound like a really supportive employer for new parents and Mothers especially – why do you think this is? 

They really are. I think it’s because there are a lot of females in senior roles within the OT directorate at Cygnet and they are all mothers themselves. That means people returning to work don’t need to feel anxious or judged for needing additional time off. As mother’s they automatically ‘get it’. 


Are the staff benefits good for maternity and childcare? 

Yes! There are the usual childcare vouchers via your pay and tax but they also have nursery fee discounts through Busy Bees. 

I was in the NHS for several years and there was always a rumor that the NHS was the best place for maternity pay, which isn’t quite true. Cygnet’s policy works out to be exactly the same, the only difference may be in the way it’s paid. I think the NHS can split their payments evenly across the months you choose to take off, whereas Cygnet (and perhaps other Independents) front-weight the payments but the total amount is the same! 


What’s next – you are 4 days and a CTL – do you still feel ambitious and like there are many more opportunities for you to experience with Cygnet? 

Yes – still ambitious! 

I’m still learning how to juggle the work. As a CTL I support 40 OT’s across the company and still have some patients, so there is a lot to do. I love supporting OT’s to be the best they can be and the service development part of my job. I love working for Cygnet – I think in part, it’s because there is such a strong sense of identity within the OT Team here and it’s reflected across Cygnet. 

A lot of other healthcare organizations don’t have the level of OT Directors we do and the Directors  encourage us all to develop and to not feel restricted to develop in one direction. 

For example, if an OT wants to experience Management, they’re usually encouraged  to manage Support Workers or some Nurses. 

At Cygnet they allow you to look at the way you want to develop more and our colleagues across the business get what we do – we’re not just here to have a cup of tea with patients! As OT’s we talk about growth and reflection with our patients and service users and it’s also the way we approach our own work and development here. 


Thank you so much Donna for your honesty and really insightful blog, we appreciate it! 

If you’d be interested in working as an OT or within Donna’s team, please visit our OT page for more information about the work, teams and vacancies. 


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