Why did you take Shared Parental Leave (SPL)?
I have two children and took SPL with my youngest from December 2015 through September 2016. Accenture’s always had a fantastic Maternity package, but in the past, for fathers it was just the standard two weeks’ Paternity Leave. I did feel I was pegged against the system and did not have the same opportunity because I was a man. When SPL came in, I felt Accenture were quite brave in equalising SPL and Maternity Leave.
My wife and I did have concerns about our eligibility, as she has a part-time working pattern as a Physio and teaching 1:1 Pilates to private clients. We did extensive reading on the HMRC website to ensure we fully understood the criteria, and that she was working sufficiently to be eligible.
Initially I did have some reservations around my career impact. I wasn’t sure how it would pan out. However, given it was a once in life-time opportunity, I decided to go for it and take SPL. In the end my faith paid off, and I was promoted 2 months after I came back from SPL, which was fantastic.
What has been your experience since being back?
I reached out to my network two weeks before coming back to try and find a role, and get a feel for how the practice was doing. People in my community have been really helpful, and I’ve been involved in some interesting short-term internal work in my two weeks of return. This has helped me get back into the rhythm of where we are today. I guess it’s a little easier for fathers transitioning back in compared to mothers, whereby mothers might have more pressure around arranging childcare etc.
How did your colleagues and peers react to your intentions on taking SPL?
Before I went on SPL, I spoke to a lot of people about whether it was the right idea to take it or not. I had really useful and open discussions, everyone was generally very positive and thought it was a great initiative.
There were people who didn’t know SPL existed and they were quite surprised about it. There were people who thought I was brave, and weren’t sure whether they would consider the same in my situation (a lot of the men, that is). The women were really supportive as well, they had a better idea of the realities of what’s to expect going away and returning to work—talking to some mothers who’d taken Maternity Leave was probably the best insight I had got.
How has SPL shaped the relationship with your child and family?
It was great to have so much time to spend with the family, getting to know them better and really understand what it’s like to be at home. My wife works part-time, and I know now just how tricky it is compared to just sitting in an office all day. I definitely have more of an appreciation for it. It certainly helps when I’ve come home from work and I’m knackered, but I realise just how much more knackered she must be and so I’m more supportive.
There were so many highlights being together, from funny moments with my kids to going on some wonderful trips. My wife is from Brazil so we were there for a month and had some of the best times. Two of my friends from Accenture got married in Sri Lanka and we managed to get out there for 2 weeks, they were incredible times that we’ll never forget.
Also just being able to have that time with my kids when they’re so small, we won’t ever have that opportunity again. The highlight for me was just the whole parental leave, being at home and being with them.
What did you learn from your SPL experience?
Being out of work took a little getting used to. Play groups are very different to traditional "work." I realise just how tough it is being at home and looking after kids. It can be physically and emotionally draining sometimes, if you’re the only adult having to entertain the kids and keep them clean. I have a better appreciation of just how relentless, and at times frustrating, parenting can be.
As far as applying for SPL, I believe the system works well. It can sometimes be a little difficult to figure the number of SPL weeks and what week comes where, but it was very smooth once I had put my application through. I am now part of the Accent on Family network and working on developing the experience for those transitioning back in.