Laura shared parental leave with her partner Taryn when they had their first daughter Lexi. She took a total of seven months’ Shared Parental Leave from October 2015 through May 2016, and was promoted whilst on this leave. Laura has since returned to work, whilst Taryn is a full time mother.
Why did you take Shared Parental Leave?
I was just really grateful to have this opportunity to care for my daughter and support my partner after she gave birth. Initially I was only going to take 12 weeks, I thought this would be enough time off, and I didn’t want to push the ask. However, my managing directors all reached out in some form and encouraged me to really seize the opportunity and take the maximum time I can. They said, "You’ll never get the time back, and it’ll be an amazing experience and opportunity"—so that’s what I did, I took the most amount of time I could, which was about seven months, and the support I received from leadership was profound.
Has taking SPL had any type of impact on your career?
I don’t believe it has had any negative impacts. I was on SPL while I was promoted, which was fantastic. I think coming back you have to have a really honest conversation with yourself about what pace you want to work, although it’s not something you need to answer straight away.
If you’re at the time in your career where it’s the right time for you, then nothing will prevent you from progressing. I don’t believe taking a year away or a period of time away from the firm is going to have a negative impact on your career or be career limiting—it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to get rewarded through existing programs, or not be considered for good roles.
How did your colleagues and peers react to your intentions on taking SPL?
Extremely positive, and I was very much congratulated and encouraged by leadership. My peers were also very supportive, as well as my clients. When you tell people that you didn’t have the baby and you were still able to be on seven months’ full pay, people are amazed and want to know more.
How has SPL shaped the relationship with your child and family?
There’s been evidence that does suggest having both parents around has a mentally positive effect for all, which I feel personally it has. I’ve really bonded with my daughter during this time.
During the first six weeks, being there to support my partner for me was imperative. I don’t know how others partners have managed it before SPL, having to return to work from their spouses after two weeks. Carrying and having a child can really take a toll and be quite traumatic; it’s like coming home after having a serious medical procedure, and then being given a newborn and told to make a plan, while your partner goes to work. I was surprised and thrilled at how much I could be there for my partner.
What did you learn from your SPL experience?
At first I thought it was going to be time off, and I’ve now learnt it’s most certainly not time off. I made lots of plan to write books, go on ridiculous holidays, had planned to fit a new kitchen in—the latter two I still managed to do, but on reflection, it was the most manic time of my life just caring for Lexi, she was more than enough excitement. I recall people telling me how wonderful but hard it will be, but actually it’s more exhausting and more fantastic than anyone could even explain.
At the end of my SPL I came back and worked four days a week. I used my holidays to come back on a part-time basis, and it was a nice way for me to transition back in. For someone returning from SPL, my advice would be to come back at your own pace, do what you can and make the job fit around your family. If you need to leave by 6 p.m. for bath time, or 4 p.m. for swimming or want to work from home, there's always flexibility.