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© Nasir Hamid
James Sheppard with daughter Lily at the 2016 Departmental Summer Fete.

Senior Research Fellow James Sheppard describes how the department has supported him to progress his career while achieving a positive work–life balance through shared parental leave.

I remain unique amongst my peers outside Oxford in having taken up shared parental leave.
- James Sheppard

I am a non-clinical researcher in my early 30s. Like many post-doc researchers, I face the challenges of short fixed-term contracts, balancing time spent on my immediate research responsibilities and maximising opportunities for career progression. To me, career progression in academia is not just about promotion and increased responsibility; it is simply about sustaining the academic career which I love.

In September 2013 I took up a 3 year MRC Strategic Skills Population Health Scientist Post-doc Fellowship. I was quick to settle in thanks to the excellent induction and welcome I received. Fellowship funding meant I could lead my own research and take up an extensive training programme. In 2014, following my PDR, I applied for re-grading to grade 8. Unfortunately my application was rejected because I was not supervising enough students/staff, but the department was very supportive in providing opportunities to supervise MSc students, academic clinical fellows and a new DPhil student. This increased responsibility was sufficient to secure my regrading to grade 8 at the second attempt in 2015.

In June 2015, I was blessed with the birth of my first child, Lily and became the first person in NDPCHS to be eligible for the new shared parental leave, which I heard about through the department’s Better Workplace Family Friendly working group. Our HR manager made sure that I understood what was involved and my line manager encouraged me to take an increased period of leave. He said “You will never look back on your life and wish you had spent a little more time at work, but you may look back and wish you had spent a bit more time with your kids”. That has stuck with me and was a key factor in my decision to take 6 weeks additional (paid) leave in the first 6 months after Lily‘s birth. I remain unique amongst my peers outside Oxford in having taken up shared parental leave.

Working in the NDPCHS is enjoyable and the supportive, family friendly and encouraging environment gives me the confidence that I will be able to both sustain an academic career in academia and raise a family. In addition to encouraging academic excellence, I am also empowered to maintain a healthy work-life balance, leaving work early on at least two days a week so that I can spend time with my daughter before she goes to bed. Such a positive environment should not be underestimated, and I feel very privileged to have been part of it for the last 3 years.


Through the Better Workplace Group, the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences provide opportunities for all department members to feed into and drive forward initiatives that create a supportive and encouraging work environment. Find out more | Join a working group

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