“Shell’s flexible maternity leave gave me extra time with the kids and the opportunity to help them settle into school and childcare, and for me to balance my time before returning to work.”

woman with children

Canadian Layna Smith, together with her husband, Trent and two young sons (aged three- and one-year old then) moved to Australia in 2011 in pursuit of Coal Seam Gas (CSG), working at Shell’s LNG facility. She started in the Wells Engineering team and was quickly consumed by the interesting scope. But three years down the line, the couple started thinking about a third child before it became too late and by 2016, they welcomed a little girl.

During this time, Layna was able to utilise Shell’s flexible maternity leave to her advantage (one can actually take up to two years) and extended her leave to 15 months, enabling her to spend two summers at home before returning to work full time. The arrangement also saved Layna the hassle of having to find temporary childcare for all three kids because the daycare services that the couple’s older children used to go to only accepts new babies in January each year.

“I was very thankful for the extra time with the kids as it gave me the opportunity to help them settle into school and childcare, and for me to balance my time before returning to the new organisation of Shell QGC,” Layna reflected. (New being the BG takeover which happened while Layna was on maternity leave).

Family at beach

Layna went on to say, “Upon my return in February 2017, I took on a new full time role handling the Front End Engineering for Plug and Abandonment Scope. And to ensure I was competent enough to be a part of the Well Engineering team, my weekends were spent studying for two sets of exams to obtain my Round Two diploma.” The exams were a requirement for all BG Well Engineers transitioning to Shell. But Layna’s challenge was not just this; that same year, her husband started a new role that required him to be in the field for one week a month.

Juggling career and family then called for reinforcements. That year, her inlaws from Canada came to help with the kids and Layna’s mom too, came over for three weeks to help out before the second set of exams. However on November 1, 2017, while Layna was in The Netherlands, tragedy struck.

Her father in-law went into cardiac arrest and spent over three weeks in ICU in an induced coma. Thankfully by mid-December, he recovered and was well enough to return to Canada with Trent’s siblings. By then Layna had passed her exams and her daughter was almost a year older.

Reflecting back over the year, Layna questioned herself, “I remember thinking some weeks felt like I had barely made eye contact with my kids. What was I doing?” She then decided to take the month of January off without pay (another flexible work policy at Shell that many are unaware of but at the discretion of the manager though) to assess where she was at and to try to make up for the lost weekends with her children.

Layna really loved her job and her family but knew the balance wasn’t right. So she proposed a three-day work schedule (instead of full time) to her husband - complete with tax benefit spreadsheets, budget changes and a list of reasons why she wanted this so much. He was hesitant initially but after seeing the overall plans, he was convinced and she formally submitted the request to her Line Manager and there was no regrets from there onwards