Anna and Katy
Names and jobs:
Anna is a university lecturer and Katy is a secondary school teacher.
Edward, age 8 months.
The couple each took six months’ leave; Anna, who is Edward’s birth mother, took the first six months and Katy took two weeks’ ‘paternity’ leave when Edward was born, then six months’ shared parental leave once Anna had returned to work.
Pay during leave:
Anna’s six months’ maternity leave was enhanced; the first three months of Katy’s SPL was paid at the statutory rate and the final three months were unpaid.
Katy is currently on shared parental leave; when she returns to work Edward will attend a nursery during school term time.
The couple decided on this arrangement because they knew they wanted to share the caregiving equally, as Anna explains: “I like the fact that you can both have an equal stake in bringing up your child, and that you’re not suddenly entitled to more because you’re the person who had the baby.”
They felt it made sense for Anna to take the first six months, to recover from the birth and get used to breastfeeding: “You can take the leave more flexibly but the plan had always been that I’d breastfeed him and the logistics of doing that in the first six months on a more flexible basis would have been quite difficult.”
Taking six-month blocks rather than shorter, more flexible chunks of leave has, they say, worked well. “Having the time off to fully focus on being a parent knowing that it was a six month stretch, and not having to pop back in and out of work in that time, was really nice,” says Anna. “And I know from our places of work too, that’s meant they’ve been able to get people in to cover our positions whilst we’ve been away, so in a way you feel better about that because you know that things can be covered easily.”
Both women feel that sharing the leave is paying dividends for Edward. “It means that he’s going to have built up an equally strong relationship with both of us, and both of us will know him really, really well,” Katy explains. “Obviously we’ve looked after him intensely at different stages, but…we’re both going to have had the same amount of time, it’s going to feel like we’ve…we’ve had a fair chance to get to know each other.”
They also stress that leave-sharing can bring benefits to employers. “We’d always wanted Edward to have a year with parents at home, and we wanted it to be split between us at the start, but if for any reason we hadn’t been able to do that, I would have taken a year off work,” Anna says. “So I think probably employers can benefit because people will be happier to take a smaller amount of time off work as long as the child can have a parent at home for the full period of time.”
And both have already recommended it to other couples. “In a lot of the groups that we go to, when people have found out that I’m part of the shared parental leave, they’ve been quite interested in that,” says Katy. “I think some people just don’t know…still don’t know that it exists, and I would definitely recommend it to people.”
“It’s a really good opportunity for you to have that…that go at parenthood, and to be able to do that within a scheme where…you can do it legitimately, you know, within your current job, return to the role that you had, so you’re not making a massive sacrifice, but you’re getting a lot of benefits,” Anna adds.