The one question that keeps coming up here is, ‘what’s Matt [my husband] doing?’ From my social media pages it seems like – despite my bid to push for flexible working in the workforce for one and all – I’m still shouldering the burden of childcare as he heads out into the 9-5 (or 8-6, more realistically). And to a certain extent that’s right – my current job/career/Sellotaping words together means I’m entirely flexible so I’ve ended up in a world of galloping to school with Bat Girl (World Book Day?) in tow and scrabbling around trying to work with a baby on boob and Incy Wincy Spider on Spotify.
But that’s about to change. Matt works at a content agency and is taking up Shared Parental Leave so I can scramble back onto the editorial horse/donkey. While I understand our current positions are not reflective of everyone out there, Shared Parental Leave is an option for around 285,000 eligible couples every year.
These couples – possibly you? – can share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay after having a baby. In it’s simplest form, this means you can take time off separately or be at home together for up to 6 months. While I live for snuffles on Eve’s teeny tiny little head, I am definitely ready to edge away from trying to write to the beat of The Wheels On The Bus. Equally, Matt is keen to tackle those code red nappy situations in the cheese aisle of Tesco with full jazz hands.
But our set-up is currently fairly rare. As it stands, the take up of Shared Parental Leave is as low as 2% and around half of the general public haven’t the foggiest that it even exists for parents.
But why does it exist? (I mean, other than to edge away from that frustrating phrase ‘Daddy Daycare’ – he’s parenting folks and it’s an ongoing task that he actually – truly – enjoys at times. Who’d have thought?)
“This government is determined to tackle and ultimately close the gender pay gap. To do this, we need to support women to fulfil their potential in the workplace – and giving women the choice to share childcare with their partners is crucial to that effort,” said minister for women, Victoria Atkins.
Sure, it won’t be for everyone and sure, some mammaries won’t allow separation earlier than 12 months. There are many reasons why it wouldn’t be taken up – but choice is essential here. To give a woman the choice of going back to work earlier, knowing her partner can officially swoop in with that equally expansive paternal wing.
And there it is. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s campaign ‘Share the joy’ is simply about that – choice and sharing, well, the joy. Business Minister Andrew Griffiths says: Shared Parental Leave gives choice to families. Dads and partners don’t have to miss out on their baby’s first step, word or giggle.
But this isn’t solely about offering up the parental unit an equal division of snuffles. Employers can cash-in the benefits, too. If I know anything, it’s that flexibility in work equals happier, more loyal and more productive employees. (From my experience flexibility makes people work harder and stopping employees from working – encouraging them to switch off – is the bigger issue).
That said, I’ve not yet ventured into sharing the burden of childcare; sharing those precious moments when I ask my eldest daughter, “how was your day?” to get a mumble of “I don’t remember, Can I have some Wotsits?” (I’m exaggerating; of course, because the gushing night-before-Christmas excitement I get at school pick-up is less easy to palate on page.)
But time will tell if it’s for us. One thing’s for sure, it’s a choice. One we made together. Matt reckons, “it’s fairly simple, really. I’m one half of the procreation equation so I should be able to enjoy (or endure occasionally) those first few months. I’m looking forward to some QT with both girls.”
I can’t wait to see Matt’s glazed eyes at 6.30pm every night as the Paw Patrol theme tune drills into his soul as he project manages demands for “the green spoon”, while Eve uses his index finger as a chew toy.
Let us know what you think. Are you sharing leave? Have you considered it but ducked out at the last? Let us know your thoughts.
Share the joy
Shared Parental Leave was introduced in 2015 to offer choice to eligible parents when it comes to childcare, and allow mothers to return to work sooner if they wish to. The policy benefits employers who can retain talent in their workforce and can contribute to closing their gender pay gap. Employment rights have been placed firmly at the centre of government policy, with Greg Clark, Business Secretary, taking responsibility for promoting the delivery of better quality jobs as part of a drive to boost productivity in the modern Industrial Strategy. As part of the campaign, parents who have taken Shared Parental Leave have shared their experience of how the policy has benefitted their families.