When did you and your partner decide to do shared parental leave?
My wife became self-employed in 2015. That meant she was only entitled to the standard level of Maternity Allowance, which represented a significant drop in earnings. We decided quite early in the pregnancy that it made more sense for me to take some time off to look after the baby, so she could return to work sooner. How long did it take to organise? As the rules covering SPL are quite new and there aren’t many fathers who have taken advantage of them, it took a little while to check eligibility and work out how the rules applied to our situation. My wife being self-employed didn’t make things any simpler! I first spoke to my manager in mid-March. The baby was due early July and I took SPL from the beginning of October for three months, when Amber was three months old. The department provided Rachel enjoying her sending-off party 18 full-time cover for my post, through the RDM Trainee Administrator scheme, ensuring a smooth transition when I returned to work.
How did it compare to when your oldest daughter was little?
It’s very difficult to say how it compared. Having two children is very different from just having one and much of my time on SPL was spent with both of them. I’ve always been a very hands-on dad, but having more time to spend with my children was wonderful. It helped me to bond with Amber and experience her development from being a very passive three month old to a six month old who was beginning to engage with the world and be curious about everything.
Any advice for other soon-to-be fathers considering shared parental leave?
If you are able to do it, do it! The opportunity to take an extended period of time off work to be with your family is very rare – I’m unlikely to have another similar opportunity before I retire – so grab the opportunity with both hands if you can. Having said that, the current rules require the mother to give up a proportion of her leave, which would be a difficult decision in many cases.
What was your favourite bit?
Being able to see Amber develop from day to day over a period where she changed very rapidly. I also enjoyed being able to spend more time with my three year old, Rowan, when she needed to adjust from being the centre of attention to often playing second fiddle to the new baby. Being able to have time to give her support was invaluable.
What were the challenges?
Although we had planned for Lucy to return to work, it turned out that she wasn’t ready to return only three months after the birth. We also decided that the opportunity to spend time together as a family was too good to miss. But this brought some serious financial challenges – Lucy had to give up her Maternity Allowance in order for me to qualify for SPL – and with neither of us working we didn’t keep to a routine, which wasn’t great, particularly for Rowan.
Would you do it again?
If you are an expectant father and are considering taking advantage of Shared Parental Leave, please get in touch with your local personnel team.