@daddy.hew guest blog
Shared Parental Leave - Guest Blog by @daddy.hew
Why is Shared Parental Leave still a taboo topic and why aren’t dads taking up this amazing opportunity?
I’m Daddy Hew. I’m almost 30. I’m married to Mummy Hew and we have two beautiful children; Gracie will be five in August and Henry will be one in June. We got married in 2012 and knew that we wanted to build a family together. We made the decision that we would enjoy married life for a year before trying for a child.
We were really fortunate and fell pregnant really quickly with Gracie. She was born in August 2014. I took six weeks off work when she was born, this was a mixture of Paternity Leave, Family Leave (my company offer one week at full pay) and annual leave. The first six weeks, spent at home as a family were so valuable to us. I was able to help Mummy Hew settle into a routine. I was able to bond with my new born daughter. We had moments together, as a family, that I will cherish forever.
After my six weeks leave were up I felt like I wanted more. I didn’t want to be in the office, slogging away 9-5. I felt like I had left part of me at home. Unfortunately, Shared Parental Leave was not an option when Gracie was born. It was introduced in April 2015.
When we made the decision to have a second child, one of the first conversations we had was about Shared Parental Leave. I was passionate that I took more time off work to care for and support my family. One of the discussions we had was about who would take what time. I was conscious that Mummy Hew had 13 months off with Gracie and that she wouldn’t be taking the same period of time off work the second time round.
Shared Parental Leave entitles the Father (or partner if in a same sex couple) to share 50 weeks of the leave. The first two weeks, by law, have to be taken by the Mother; the remaining 50 are able to be shared. The Company I work for offers a generous benefits package, allowing me to take 19 weeks Shared Parental Leave at full pay. This is an amazing benefit and I am in a very fortunate position, I know not all companies offer the same pay...but the Leave is still there for the taking.
Would I take Shared Parental Leave if my benefits package wasn’t as generous? 100% yes! Whilst having the financial backing helps, this time is irreplaceable and I could not put a price on in!
Many people have told me they have been put off taking Shared Parental Leave due to the financial pressure on their family. Each time I have this conversation I always ask them to go back and review their figures. Currently, in the UK, if you are taking Shared Parental Leave you are entitled to Statutory Shared Parental Leave Pay; which is currently £139.58 a week. Statutory Maternity Pay is £145.18 or 90% of your weekly earnings (whichever is less). So from a financial perspective the difference is minimal. I firmly believe that both parents should be able to continue a career throughout the time a child is born. Why should it just be the Mother who stays home and takes a year out of her career to care for a newborn baby. With the current benefits in the UK, the Statutory Maternity Allowance is so similar to Statutory Shared Parental Leave pay, so why shouldn’t it be the Father who takes a dent in their pay for a few months?!
I have been on Shared Parental Leave since 23 March 2019. My wife remained off work until 8 May 2019. We chose to have a period of time where our leave crossed over so we could both be at home with our son. It meant that Mummy Hew was able to relax more, go shopping, get her nails done, relax in the bath; anything she wanted without the thought in the back of her mind that a baby could wake up at any minute and need her undivided attention. Having a period of time crossing over with one another meant we could build a routine that would work for our family, ready for when Mummy Hew went back to work. It meant that our son’s routine wasn’t overly affected and he could happily carry on in his own little world.
Since Mummy Hew has returned to work, I have spent my days with my son. I have been able to give him time and attention that I would never have been able to do if I was at work. He’s 10 months old now so my days are spent encouraging him to wean onto food, teaching him to crawl and stand up on his own. It’s the most amazing experience and I would recommend it to any Father.
Life isn’t always so sweet though. I’m now responsible for running the house, ensuring the house work is complete before Mummy Hew gets home, making sure both kids have clean clothes and are adequately fed. I am dealing with tantrums from our four year old and grizzles from the 10 month old. At times it can be challenging; I haven’t got someone there who I can hand over to when times get tough. But it works. We love it. And Mummy Hew is back in time to help with the bedtime routine.
I will be off on Shared Parental Leave until 1 July 2019. I haven’t made any particular plans other than to spend as much time as I can with my kids. I’ve made the decision not to attend any parent and baby groups because my son will be in full time nursery from 12 months old - he will have enough time to bond with other babies then!
I’m not sure how I feel about returning to work. I guess all Mothers go through this range of emotions. It’s not often I hear from a Father who has taken a large block of time out of work to care for their family and then has to worry about what will be in the office when they return...I guess this is just expected of Mothers!
It’s really difficult to find any statistics of Fathers or Partners who have taken Shared Parental Leave. It is estimated that of the 250,000 Fathers or Partners eligible to take Shared Parental Leave last year, only 10,000 took the opportunity...this really shocks me! It’s 2019, we are in an era where we are trying to close the Gender Pay Gap. This isn’t going to happen until we all act equally. In time, I hope, it won’t just be Mothers taking Leave, Fathers will too. When this happens companies will have no option but to review their overall position. It will mean less discrimination for Women and we will see more Women sitting on the Board at large companies...because Maternity Leave won’t be such a taboo subject, parents will ALL be able to take time off without fearing for their jobs.
I’m always happy to talk about my Shared Parental Leave Experience. If you’re on Shared Parental Leave or considering it, I’d love to hear from you and hear about your experience!
For now, I’ll be enjoying the summer with my kids....I couldn't ask for much for than that for 2019 could I?!