Richard and Rob
Names, ages and jobs:
Richard is an NHS doctor; Rob is a lawyer.
Son, age 2
Richard took ten and a half months of adoption leave, followed by six weeks’ annual leave. In the baby’s first month with the couple, Rob took two weeks’ paternity leave followed by two weeks’ unpaid leave; then at the end of the year he took a month’s shared parental leave.
Pay during leave:
Richard received 6 months of enhanced pay and 3 months at the statutory level. Rob received two weeks of paid leave at the beginning of the adoption; his month of SPL was unpaid.
Both Richard and Rob now work four day weeks and their son goes to nursery three days per week.
In the baby’s first month with the couple, Rob took two weeks’ paternity leave followed by two weeks’ unpaid leave; then at the end of the year he took a month’s shared parental leave. His job is also flexible enough to allow him to play a role in caregiving during the working week.
The couple feel that spending two months on leave at the same time – one month when the baby first arrived, and another month at the end of his first year – has brought particular benefits in terms of Rob’s relationship with their son, and his confidence as a parent.
“I think part of it is just about seeing what it’s like from the other person’s perspective, which you can never quite understand until you actually do it,” says Rob. “For me, I think one of the best parts of it has just been that opportunity to bond with our son in a way that I don’t think is possible otherwise…it’s all about having that time with your child.”
Richard, who took on the role of ‘lead’ caregiver during the first year, says that Rob’s time at home has also helped clarify that “now I’ve gone back to work, it is definitely a shared thing that we’re doing, rather than it being me that continued with the, kind of, primary responsibility. When you’re on maternity leave or parental leave, it’s very easy to think that you’re the only person that’s involved, and that you’re the person that has most of the responsibility, and that’s not necessarily desirable if you’re in a team, and if you’re in a unit.”
The fact of having taken the leave together was also important, they say. “I remember, at the start, thinking this would have been really daunting if you hadn’t had another two weeks off,” says Richard.
“We were able to actually just pass the time of day as a family, playing with toys, reading books… just kind of hanging out,” adds Rob. “That’s something that we were able to do a bit more of because we were off together, rather than just, kind of, snatching moments of that when you’re busy at the weekend.”
But whatever the pattern of leave you end up taking, the important thing is to look seriously at the SPL scheme and think about the possibilities it might throw up for your family, Rob suggests: “There is a worry about what people are going to think if you take the leave: will it have an impact on your career; will people think, maybe, that you’re a bit less committed to work? Which is clearly nonsense. Wanting to spend some time in the early year of your child’s life is not inconsistent with being dedicated to your career.”