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Shared Parental Leave Daddy's opinion

Monday, 15 January 2018  |  Admin


Shared Parental Leave: Daddy’s Opinion



When Penny asked if I would like to write a"guest post” about my thoughts on Shared Parental Leave, I won't lie I was a little apprehensive {in fact, I probably looked as happy as Bump does in the picture above!}. Blogging is not my forte and talking about my personal experiences certainly isn't something I like to do. Anyway, she has convinced me that you would all like to hear from me. So here goes...please be kind!

I won't lie, I am very lucky. My employer is very supportive of my Shared Parental Leave {"SPL"}. Apparently I am the third person at my employer to take SPL since they introduced an enhanced policy. My decision to take SPL was made slightly easier when a colleague decided he would be the first person in our office to take advantage of the policy.

Penny said that we didn't worry about what my employer {as in the wider business} would think and she is right, we didn't. I was, however, worried about what my immediate colleagues would think. I work in a small team, we work long hours and as such are close {some would say, strangely so} and so I was slightly apprehensive about telling them that I would not be in the office for 7 weeks. I didn't want them to feel like I was leaving them in the lurch. I need not have worried, my immediate colleagues were very supportive.

My goals for SPL

The joke at work is that I am going on holiday for seven weeks. Of course, that is not true. Anyone who is a father will know how much hard work looking after a baby on a daily basis is. The mums make it look easy. It certainly is not an opportunity to binge watch the latest series of House of Cards {much to my disappointment...I joke}.

My goal for SPL is undoubtedly to bond with Bump. During the working week my time with Bump is limited to about twenty minutes {if I am lucky} in the morning. During that twenty minutes, Penny is trying to get him dressed and I am trying to eat a bowl of cereal and neck a cup of tea before rushing out of the door to ensure I don't miss the train to work.

At weekends I do have more quality time with Bump, but it is clear that he feels a lot more comfortable with Penny. That is to be expected given that he spends pretty much every waking hour with her. So my goal, for the next seven weeks, is to have some proper bonding time with him and make the most of a time that my father never had the opportunity to have with me.

I appreciate that will mean dirty nappies, frustrating {but ultimately rewarding} moments spent trying to make him nap, feeding him {Penny has spoken about the end of her breastfeeding journey here} and taking him to numerous baby classes. The first baby class as father and son will be interesting I think. I am sure the look on the faces of the other mummies will be rather amusing. Clearly my first class isn't going to be Baby Yoga {could there be anything worse for an inflexible 30-year-old male who likes social drinking?!} I am thinking Baby Sensory will be more suited for Bump and I!

The bigger SPL goal

Isn't it sad that in 2018, the site of a Dad walking into a baby class with his young son in the middle of the working week, would be treated with strange looks. I am hoping that the mummies will be a delight and very welcoming but I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. A friend from my teenage years {who amazingly was friends with Penny at university before Penny and I knew each other...small world and all that} is a Dad to two in Sweden. The SPL entitlement he has is mind-blowing. It is the norm in workplaces up and down the length of Sweden that Dads take months off work to spend them with their children.

Now I am not about to propose wide sweeping changes to the UK system, after all our Swedish cousins have a much higher rate of basic tax that subsidises such great social initiatives, but what we do need to do as a nation is step forward from the 1960s. I appreciate that a step change in maternity and parental leave policy will be a pain in the backside for employers in the short-term but, hopefully, they can think of the wider benefits.

It does not take much for an employee to feel loved and give a business there all. Sadly, many employers don't realise this {or don't have time to}. Whether it be, taking everyone out for a free slap up meal to say "thank you” or allowing an employee a free day off work to attend a hospital appointment with a sick relative, those sort of things, which cost the employer pretty much nothing, will give the employer so many bonus points that the employee will think nothing of working late or doing something additional to help the boss out.

If you treat employees how you want your customers to be treated, then a business will go far due to the "buy in" from your staff. Sir Richard Branson sums it up nicely:


And that is so true. If employers, truly put their staff first, then the rest will really follow.

I have waffled a bit too much, which is quite embarrassing for a lawyer, but we really do need to change employers attitudes to SPL, maternity leave and flexible working. This is 2018. If we can encourage employers to take the jump and introduce enhanced SPL and maternity leave policies {isn't it sad that enhanced maternity leave policies are still not the norm} the work place will be a better place. Great things are being done by some organisations, like Deloitte, around flexible working but really all businesses should be looking at all their policies {and I am not just talking about child policies, I was shocked to find out, for example, that should something happen to Penny, god forbid, I would only be allowed ten days off work}.

The next seven weeks

I feel like I haven't really spoken about the next seven weeks. I guess, what will be useful, is for me to come back in, say, 4 weeks, and give you an update on my SPL experience then. Of course, that is presuming that I am still on SPL. There is a real danger that Penny gets so fed up with me hanging around and being generally useless that she sends me back to work! Time will tell.

So my take home message to all the Dad's out there is this. Challenge your employer about SPL. In this age of equality it is only right that Dad's are given the opportunity {without any financial penalty} to have time off work to raise their children. Come on guys, let's follow the lead of our Nordic brothers and change the system for the better.

Are there any dads out there who have taken SPL? If so, what was your experience? Mums why haven't your partners taken SPL? Come on team, lets hear your thoughts and views below.