Shared Parental Leave in Action – Part 2

Despite recent rumours (Personnel Today reported last month only 2% have experienced a ‘significant take-up’) that many companies are reporting they have had very few (if any) requests for Shared Parental Leave, we can certainly report that we are now meeting working parents on a weekly basis who are either considering or actually taking up Shared Parental Leave.

In February this year, I interviewed Louisa, a solicitor in a City law firm, who attended one of our maternity coaching workshops. Last week, we also caught up with Louisa’s husband, who took 3 weeks Shared Parental Leave.

Ben reported: 

My driver for taking Shared Parental Leave was (i) that my wife returned to work early so we needed childcare and (ii) I work fairly long hours so I wanted the opportunity to spend more time with my young child.

The response from both my company and manager was excellent – they were very supportive. They allowed me time off, organised educational sessions about being a new father and are generally supportive of working fathers.

The benefits were that I got to know my daughter much better l (including the fun bits and the less fun bits). I am very pleased that I did it and I don’t feel that there has been any impact of taking time out on my working life.

Louisa’s comments: 

My husband and I both have careers that we are serious about and that require a lot of commitment and focus.  Our daughter is obviously the top priority in both of our lives but there’s no doubt that taking an entire year off would present some challenges to furthering my career.    

We both think there is a big difference between a dad taking a few weeks’ leave at the end of the mum’s longer stint of maternity leave and a dad who asked his employer for a long period like 6 months. My husband was the first man in his organisation to ask for this and it is still such a new concept culturally. 

From our point of view, Shared Parental Leave offers an opportunity of equality: it means that both mothers and fathers have the chance to be the professionals and the parents.  Yes, the finances and support are still in favour of the mothers.  To shift the cultural barriers that prevent many parents from considering the leave, we need more people to apply to gradually move towards a cultural norm.

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