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Shared Parental Leave - video casebook

This resource draws on real life accounts of couples taking Shared Parental Leave (SPL) to provide useful insights for parents and employers.

Sarada and Adam

Sarada, a hospital general manager, took 3 months maternity leave and Adam, a civil servant, took 6 months SPL in Edwin’s first year.

Factfile

Names, ages and jobs:
Adam, civil servant; Sarada, general manager in a hospital.

Children:
Edwin 22 months.

Leave taken:
Sarada took the first three months, and Adam took the following six months.

Pay during leave:
Sarada received 3 months full pay. Adam received 3 months full pay followed by 3 months Statutory Shared Parental Pay

Post-leave arrangements:
Edwin started nursery part-time from the age of nine months, with Adam’s mother also looking after him two days a week.

Adam and Sarada made use of shared parental leave to enable them to stay off work and look after their son Edwin, who was born in July 2015, for a total of nine months. Sarada went back to work three months after Edwin’s birth, and Adam then took six months’ SPL.

The couple say the decision to finish SPL at nine months was mainly a financial one, given that Adam’s SPL pay finished at that point. They describe the way they split the nine months between them as ‘arbitrary’.

“I recall for whatever reason picking 12 weeks or three months as a period that would be sufficient for me to recover physically and mentally from having given birth and then wanting to go back, and Adam again, also quite arbitrarily, chose a block of six months,” says Sarada.

Both Sarada and Adam feel that taking SPL has brought benefits for themselves personally, and for the family as a whole.

Adam has no regrets about taking six months out from his career: “I got to see a lot of Edwin growing up in those very early months. The change in the development during that period is pretty rapid and you know, you have all the sleepless nights but looking back on that now….that’s been a great benefit to me.”

Sarada feels that by limiting her leave to three months, she has managed to keep her career on track – and even progress it. “I’ve been able to succeed at promotions that have come up. Going back to work a bit sooner than perhaps others want to…has allowed me to continue at a pace.”

They admit that they each encountered negative responses to their use of the leave, with Adam having to field comments along the lines of ‘Oh you’re giving mum the day off today’ or ‘You’re babysitting today’, and Sarada experiencing ‘stigma’ that she describes as ‘quite challenging’: “Quite a lot of other parents were quite judgmental about our choice and told me that three months wouldn’t be enough, my body wouldn’t recover, my mind wouldn’t recover, I wouldn’t be clever enough to go back to work, all sorts of ridiculous statements.”

But both parents remain convinced that they made the right choices, stressing that sharing the leave has helped equip them to take an equal role in raising their child. “Edwin’s incredibly comfortable with either of us, which sounds obvious but isn’t actually,” says Sarada. “There are many circumstances where there’s one predominant caregiver (usually the mother) who becomes the person that the child expects to be around all the time, and with Edwin there isn’t that anxiety.”

And they are both strong advocates for the positive impact SPL could have for switched-on employers, as well as the parents they employ.

“There’s a whole lot of pregnancy discrimination cases and concerns that women still have…we might go some way to even addressing those issues,” says Adam. “If anyone in the department I’m about to manage were to have a conversation with me about the fact that they were pregnant or their partner was pregnant the first thing I would be talking about with them is choice – keeping it as plain and simple and clear for them as possible.”

Research partners

  • As part of an academic project, researchers from Manchester and Lancaster Universities would love to hear more about your views of SPL. If you would be happy for the project team to contact you with a link to a brief survey please type your email address (otherwise please just press submit).