How flexible parental leave has been the perfect answer for my family, my team and my client
February 17, 2022
February 17, 2022
Since the birth of his third child, Raelynn, Sonu Thekkanadiyil has flexibly taken his 18 weeks parental leave in a combination of formats over the past 18 months. Learn how Accenture’s policies have supported him and his family, while enabling him to continue to meet all project delivery targets.
When my wife Diana fell pregnant with our third child, Raelynn, now 18 months old, I started to look into the available parental leave options Accenture provided. I went to the parental leave portal and saw that there was the flexibility to use the leave in a range of ways. I also knew of other people within Accenture working part-time schedules, so I knew this could be supported by the business.
I realised that using the leave in a more flexible way over a longer term would be a great option for our family, and following discussions with the team, I also knew it would be a better solution for our project as well. Leaving the project completely for months would have been difficult, but a part-time work schedule allowed me to keep up engagement with the team and the client. 18 months in and I’m pleased to say that I’m successfully balancing project deadlines with family commitments.
Raelynn was born in June 2020, right as Melbourne was about to start a long lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With international borders closed, we weren’t able to have our parents come from India to provide support and our family in other states couldn’t come either. Even local friends couldn’t come over and bring food to help! With two older children, our daughter Diya (14) and our son Neil (11), at home too, I knew my time would be needed to help as we transitioned to a family of five.
Flexing up and down
After the birth, I took two weeks off to help everyone with the immediate adjustment. But just one week into my return to work, my wife had some medical complications and needed to go back to hospital. I took another week off unexpectedly, and the team and client we’re really supportive. Everyone recognised that I had two other children at home and no family support, so Accenture and the client made sure any challenges from me going on leave again so soon were overcome.
My wife had a total of around nine months maternity leave, so we knew it didn’t make sense to have both of us taking the full amount of parental leave at the same time. During her parental leave, I worked three days a week and took two days parental leave each week. This format allowed me to help more around the home and ensured Diana was less exhausted.
We didn’t want to send Raelynn to childcare until she had turned one, so when Diana went back to work three days a week after nine months, I switched my parental leave to three days a week while she worked. The project was very flexible to accommodate that switch and my colleagues were incredibly supportive. Being able to adjust my work schedules to suit our changing family needs has been a big help as we juggle everything.
This period of looking after Raelynn three days a week was fantastic for me too. She became more attached to me than her mum – it was a great feeling and so wonderful for our bonding. I missed out on a lot when the older two children were born, so I’ve loved having this chance. For example, when Diya was born we were living in India, but I was travelling a lot for work. Then when Neil was born, we were living in the United States, but when he was six months old, I moved to Australia and my family returned to India while I got settled here. I know how important that first year is and I’m so grateful to have had this time with Raelynn.
You’ll never regret taking this time
I genuinely think that paid parental leave and the support for flexible working and truly part-time options is one of the best benefits Accenture offers. Taking the time to spend with your children and bonding with them is something you will never forget. The past 18 months has honestly been one of the best times in my life and my relationship with all three children has benefited. Diana has now taken Raelynn to visit family in India and apparently she won’t go to bed because she’s become so used to sleeping on my shoulder.
The support from Accenture – my team, Leadership and HR – has been incredible. There’s been regular check ins to see how things are going, checking if I need more flexibility and so on. I’ve really felt how much Accenture cares and the importance the business places on parental leave. My client team has also been nothing but encouraging.
To anyone looking at taking parental leave, explore the various options available and find a model that will work for everyone, even as your needs change with time.