One man’s experience of taking shared parental leave

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During 2019 I have noticed a very positive change when it comes to public discussion about Shared Parental Leave. More men are talking about it, there is a campaign to extend it to the self-employed and companies such as Volvo and Aviva have improved their paternity policies so that more men can take the leave.

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Simon Hall of BDO UK LLP talks about his experience of taking Shared Parental Leave (SPL)

Simon Hall is a Director in the Corporate Finance team at professional services firm BDO UK LLP. In this first-person article, which he has written himself, he talks about his experience of taking shared parental leave and why he would recommend it. He is, nonetheless, very candid and admits he hadn’t heard of SPL prior to speaking to his Human Resources (HR) team.

I think it important for men like Simon to talk publicly about their SPL experiences. Women talk publicly about the positives and negatives of maternity leave all the time so us men should join the party so that it becomes a normal part of being a dad.

Enough about my thoughts. This is what Simon has to say based on his experiences of taking SPL.

Shared parental leave allowed me the flexibility to ensure I was there for my wife and daughter when they needed it most.

The weeks leading up to, and straight after, a baby being born can be tough going, something I’m sure many parents can attest to! There are many challenges, such as the birth itself (although admittedly a more stressful experience for my wife), sleep deprivation, getting your baby into a routine, and for first-timers like us, trying to work out how exactly to be a parent!

What’s more, the months that follow these first new experiences are what can only be described as a rollercoaster, made all the more challenging when you have work and client commitments. You inevitably find yourself balancing work and caring for the little one, often working bizarre hours, and getting very little rest and respite.  

For me personally, having a few weeks of paternity leave at such an early stage just didn’t feel enough.  I therefore took a short spell of paternity leave, followed by a block of shared parental leave around five months later.  

Simon and family.

Flexibility of Shared Parental Leave made a difference

This flexibility made a huge difference, as it meant I was able to support my wife at a point when our daughter, Jessica, was becoming more active and demanding.  It gave my wife the chance to have the occasional break, the importance of which cannot be overlooked, and significantly, it meant she could gradually phase herself back into running the family business.  We also caught up with tonnes of life admin, which really piles up when you have a child! 

From a personal perspective, it also meant we could both be around for some really key milestones, like hearing Jessica’s first words, helping her wean onto solid foods, and taking her to meet her extended family for the first time, some of whom cannot travel, including her Great Grandma in Malaysia. 

I was not aware of SPL

Shared Parental Leave, parental leave, paternity leave, maternity leave, baby, early years, BDO, BDO LLP UK, dadbloguk, dad blog

In all honesty, at the outset I wasn’t aware that shared parental leave even existed, or what options might be available to me as an expectant father. It was fair to say I had a lot to consider after speaking with our HR partner who talked me through my options at BDO.  The reactions from my colleagues and the partners were really positive and I have to admit I was surprised by the ease of the whole process, which I know from research can be extremely complex and challenging.

I received a lot of support and really appreciated the guidance and advice my colleagues and clients shared with me (both male and female), not just on a professional level but also on a personal level. I felt no pressure to take a certain amount of leave or come back to work at a particular point in time which eased any stress on that side of and allowed me to really enjoy the quality time with my family.  

I would strongly recommend shared parental leave to any expectant parents out there.

Have you taken SPL?

Regardless of whether you are a mum or a dad, have you benefited from taking SPL? If so, what is your experience of taking shared parental leave? Were you aware of SPL before you were expecting? Do leave a comment below. This is a very important subject and It’s be great to get a discussion going on the subject.

6 thoughts on “One man’s experience of taking shared parental leave”

  1. I am currently on shared parental leave for a 4 month period. It is abaoslutelt fantastic and I would love to write a similar article sharing my experiences and thoughts on the topic.

  2. My Brother-in-Law will be taking six months’ parental leave from his employer, when my Sister returns to work after three months’ leave, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this works out for them; I had 10 months off on maternity, and my partner only had the two weeks, which was shortened to one week as our daughter was a late arrival!

    1. Ah, yes, the whole ‘baby arriving at the wrong time’ issue. I feel for your family. I have heard of this happening. I hope it all works out well for your brother in law. Sure it will!

  3. My husband and I are expecting our first child in September and are planning on taking SPL – with me taking the first few months and my husband the latter half of the year. We are really excited about it and now working through some of the practicalities! His company (while supportive in theory) don’t have a written policy in place which makes deciphering the specifics quite tricky. We have the opportunity to hold the pen on writing a policy & benefits package for the company, giving us the chance to weave in other benefits such as accrual of holiday days while off, flexible return to work days etc etc. I was wondering if you had any tips/suggestions of what else to consider? Clearly, all extras may be dismissed but you don’t ask, you don’t get!!

    1. Sorry foe the delay in responding. I’m afraid I had to prioritise my time over the school holidays. Anyway, I would point yo uin the direction of the charity Working Families for things to consider. It must be very exciting both to have your firs child arriving imminently but also having a hand in place forming that policy. Isn’t it, ‘though, fascinating that the company hadn’t thought to put such a policy in place? Very best of luck in your parenting journey.

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