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.
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.
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
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.