Shared parental leave: One dad shares his experience

I’ve written a huge amount about shared parental leave over the years. I had long planned to ask someone to write something for me about their experience of taking the leave. As luck would have it, I was contacted out of the blue by Hamish Reid who works for Accenture.

Hamish is about to go on shared parental leave for the second time. He wrote the article below in which he admits he had concerns about the impact on his career, goes on to say that being a stay at home dad for five months was very demanding but says attitudes to SPL are changing for the better. Here’s what he had to say. 

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Hamish Reid, who is shortly to take shared parental leave for a second time, talks about his experiences of taking time out of the workplace and hopes for baby No3.

This Father’s Day will be my last one as a dad of two, as in September my wife and I are expecting our third child and first boy. Along with the normal excitement and nervousness that comes with expecting another baby, I am in the process of finalising plans to take advantage for the second time of the shared parental leave (SPL) that my company, Accenture, offers (Editor’s note: shared parental leave is a legal right offered to most employees but Accenture offers an enhanced benefits package, which some employers choose to provide).

It wasn’t an easy decision to take the leave before the birth of our second daughter in 2015. Both my wife and I had concerns about the impact it could have on my career, while the cultural taboo around men staying home to look after babies still lingers.

However, the wonderful memories I have from that period will stay with me forever, and this time round the decision was more straightforward. Taking the time out actually ended up accelerating my career in the long run, and I believe that experience made me a better colleague, husband and father. I had no doubt I would want to take shared parental leave again if the opportunity arose.

Attitudes to shared parental leave have certainly changed, not just with my employer but externally as well. The first time around, I was the exception and the idea of taking time out to look after a baby in the same way my wife took maternity leave seemed pretty radical. But, three years after its introduction many more people are familiar with the concept and everyone I speak to at Accenture agrees it’s one of the best employee benefits we offer.

Many colleagues and friends have come to me for advice and guidance when planning their own leave, and have had a similarly positive experience of taking it. I’ve always championed and talked openly about SPL, but as the programme has become more commonplace at our company, others are extolling the benefits too and it’s now widely accepted as a great opportunity for new parents. However, friends who work elsewhere are surprised at how popular our programme is, so I’m conscious that there is still some work to be done to make it a viable option for families and to normalise the idea of fathers taking time out of the workplace to care for children.

Having the opportunity to share more responsibilities for looking after children really put into perspective how challenging it can be to be a full-time parent – both physically and emotionally. So, I’m really grateful that I can be there at home with my wife for the crucial formative months of our son’s life. Taking the leave for the first time gave me a completely different perspective on parenting in general – being in the office is the holiday now!

Another thing which is very important to me is allowing my wife time to get her own career back on track – she is a part time Pilates and Physiotherapy Practitioner, but this has had to take a back seat over the last few years. Being a stay-at-home dad for a period will enable her to return to something she enjoys, so SPL offers an opportunity for us both to find personal and professional fulfilment.

I’m sure there are still misconceptions around taking SPL, as people may still think the time off could hinder their career, but last time I took leave it turned out to be a huge part of my professional development. I’m not complacent though – consulting is a competitive environment so when I come back I’ll need to quickly get back up to speed. However, I know Accenture will support me on my return to work, and I hope to come back with a renewed sense of perspective as I did the first time round.

For now though, I’m looking forward to spending time with my girls and meeting the new baby.

 

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3 Comments

  1. June 21, 2018 / 3:28 pm

    I found this really interesting. We have been discussing maternity/paternity leave. We’re about to have our first (September) Husband is adamant we wouldnt be able to afford it if he took more than 2 weeks off. So he has decided to take what he’s entitled to and that’s it. It’s great to hear from someone who’s company really looks after their employees. It seems very hard to come by these days. My company offers shared maternity leave benefits. But I guess this time, first time, it’ll be me.

    • John Adams
      Author
      June 22, 2018 / 4:53 am

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting Sophie. I’m really glad you found this article useful. I am very often campaigning for improvements to shared parental leave so it made a pleasant change to highlight the fact some men and families are making the most of the policy as it stands. Your husband’s concerns are not at all uncommon I’m afraid. I hope it all goes well for you and who knows, maybe he will take a little extra time off or you’ll be in a better position if you have more children in future so you can share the leave. Wishing you all the best.

  2. Dan
    July 11, 2018 / 1:24 pm

    Thanks for an interesting post! Our first child was born in December last year and my wife and I took SPL. I’m just coming to the end of my SPL period and it has been hard to find other dads who have taken advantage of it. We were lucky that both our employers were happy for us to do it and we worked it a little differently in that we have done alternate weeks, meaning one of us is at work for the week while the other has the week with our daughter. I will admit that it was hard adjusting initially (and living in a small rural town in Lincolnshire, people still seem to find it odd when I’ve got my daughter strapped to me whilst shopping and balancing baby groups, etc) but I would not change it for the world, I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to be there and enjoy the experience and time with my daughter and would implore others to do the same if they can (though I agree with your comment that work feels like a holiday now!). So many dads I speak to wish they had been able to do similar but I do understand why it is simply not possible for many people due to financial reasons, workplace issues, etc, etc. We are lucky in that we both earn roughly the same meaning that we would be losing half our income regardless but I am so pleased I had the opportunity and support of my employers.