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Mums in Blue creator Constable Shayna Tapusoa with her husband, Alex, and their two oldest children Jonathan and Summer.

A Facebook page that has attracted nearly 900 members since it was launched a year ago has caught the attention of Police National Headquarters. Carla Amos reports.

Mums in Blue is where like-minded women in Police discuss the challenges in trying to balance the demands of a police career with “mum life”.

They share stories, tips and tricks, laugh together, grieve together, vent, and give shout-outs. It’s about offering a place to seek and give advice without judgment, says Auckland constable Shayna Tapusoa, the group’s creator.

“Sometimes our mums feel they have to choose between having children and building a career. This is not the case,”
she says.

Some of the hottest topics since the page started in August 2021 revolve around differing information being given to mums – especially about flexible employment options (FEOs), parental leave and the return-to-work process, Shayna says.

“A lot of what we're looking to solve [with the group] lies in the management and communications to our mums. We're learning through the page that what's available for a lot of people isn't available for others. And, unfortunately, it's causing people to leave the police.”

However, a trip to Wellington in late September by Shayna and the group’s administrators – Brooke Bellairs, Laura Hadwen and Nora Poching – means things could soon change. The page had caught the eye of Assistant Commissioner Tusha Penny, who was “deeply impressed” with what Mums in Blue had already achieved.

She invited the women to spend two days at PNHQ meeting the executive leaders responsible for parental leave. “It quickly became clear there was an opportunity here for Police to… remove barriers to support this network,” Tusha says.

“Shayna and the administrators said what would make the biggest difference was a forum in which they could raise issues and have senior leaders at the table working together to address these. We are now setting up just this to tackle these issues as a collective… to ensure it supports continuous improvement. We are excited and hopeful with what we can achieve together,” Tusha says.

Shayna is equally excited. “Hopefully we’ll be able to find a blanket rule for everyone. Something that everyone can benefit from.”

Shayna has always loved the idea of working for Police.

“My first job was an administrative job in HR at Auckland Central Station. I then took on a secondment role in police recruitment, which I loved, and it is what inspired me to join in 2018.”

Her path to motherhood was not as smooth.

“I've been married eight years to my husband, Alex. We tried, unsuccessfully, to grow our family for the first five years of our marriage.”

Then, after only a few months of working on the police frontline, Shayna became pregnant. Life has changed more drastically since. She now has three children – 2-year-old son Jonathan, 1-year-old daughter Summer and a 4-week-old baby boy, who is yet to be named.

“I quickly realised I didn't know about this working mum life balance… I knew that anyone in the same situation would appreciate the same support I was getting.”

Along came the Facebook group:
“I wanted to find other mums (or mums to be) who were facing the same challenges I faced. The page provides a place to talk about anything and everything in a positive and nurturing way.”

Stories vary from work/return-to-work issues to regaining fitness, potty training, breastfeeding, adoption, IVF, egg and sperm donor experiences, surrogacy... you name it, it’s covered.

“Unfortunately, there are also mothers on our page who have experienced the loss of an unborn baby. This isn't an easy topic to discuss but the support from other mums is why we value and appreciate somewhere to be vulnerable, honest and sometimes sad,” Shayna says.

“Without the wonderful members who are willing to share their knowledge on current police processes and effective work/life balance, this page would not be a success.”

Sergeant Miriam Bentley, of Porirua, has three children, Tyler, 6, Anaia, 4, and Boston, 2, and was one of the first 50 women to join Mums in Blue. She says it’s a great, safe space “where we can share and support other mums across the country with their work/life journeys”.

“It’s been good to meet other like-minded Mums in Blue and know that I have a group of powerful women right behind me,” Miriam says.

Shayna agrees: “It has created a new sense of belonging, especially for mums working in the outer regions. They are more confident in their future in policing knowing what they're entitled to. They can ask honest and sometimes awkward questions they may not be ready to discuss with their supervisors.

“The reoccurring theme on the forum is for mums to do what's right for their family. From my experience, it's easy to feel torn between pursuing a career in Police and raising the next generation. There's no miracle solution for the different issues being raised. We're all just doing our best.”

What are FEO's?

Flexible employment options (FEOs) were introduced by Police in 2003 (the Employment Relations Act provides a statutory right to request a variation to work arrangements).

The Police Flexible Employment Policy states: “The purpose of FEO is to help Police retain experienced and skilled employees... For employees, it provides the opportunity to achieve an optimal fit between work performance and commitments outside the workplace.”

Members who apply for an FEO are encouraged to be as flexible as possible and to meet with their managers before applying to discuss the implications of an FEO arrangement and to seek solutions that fit the needs of Police and the member.

Under the Act, there is an obligation on employers to consider all applications and there are strict criteria for declining one, such as:

  • Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
  • Inability to recruit additional staff
  • Not enough work available when the employee proposes to work
  • Burden of additional costs.

To promote FEO arrangements in Police, applications can only be declined by district commanders and national managers.

Sergeant Miriam Bentley has three children, Tyler, 6, Anaia, 4, and Boston, 2, and was one of the first 50 women to join Facebook group Mums in Blue.

One-stop doc for parents

The Police Association Parental Leave Pack (PLP) is a comprehensive guide on what you need to know as an employee throughout a pregnancy or adoption and the parental leave process.

The six-part pack provides a step-by-step guide to your employment rights, entitlements and processes. It covers each phase, from learning you are going to have a baby, adopting or becoming a caregiver to parental leave and returning to work. There is advice and a checklist for each section.

The PLP was created by Detective Senior Sergeant Sally Patrick, chairperson of the association’s Hawke’s Bay Committee. She worked with association staff to provide an invaluable guide. “When I started my family, I had so many questions and it was very difficult to find the answers as they were not in one place,” Sally says.

Answers to common questions can vary depending on your personal situation, so the pack seeks to cover as many options as possible, including some advice specific to partners.

Two of the most complex aspects covered are the varying types of parental leave and parental leave payments, including filling out IRD forms.

Don’t forget, members of the Police Welfare Fund are paid a birth benefit of $150 for one child and $500 for a multiple birth. There is also a benefit of up to $1000 available to help with the legal costs of adoption. In the Health Plan, there is a $200 benefit for each child who joins and stays for a five-year minimum.

Members can find the PLP here.