Amy and Ian
Names and jobs:
Amy, charity business manager; Ian, web developer
Luke, 15 months.
Amy took eight months’ maternity leave and Ian took four months of SPL.
Pay during leave:
Amy’s eight months of maternity leave were paid at the statutory level (she had only worked for her employer for two months before Luke was born, so missed out on enhanced pay). Ian took four months of shared parental leave, receiving a reduced rate of pay for his first month of SPL alone.
Both Ian and Amy now work four days a week.
Amy and Ian both grew up with fathers who spent long periods as primary care-giver, and they say this was a key motivating factor behind their decision to share the leave. Amy describes the decision to share the leave as a “no-brainer”.
In this respect, they were surprised by how unusual they were among their peer group. “We joined an NCT group to do antenatal classes and we said when we were introducing ourselves that we were going to share our leave,” says Amy. “I really expected other people to say, oh, we’re doing that too, because we thought it was such a great idea, but everyone else said no, the mum’s taking the whole 12 months off. There wasn’t much understanding about shared parental leave. Now the others in our group really admire us for doing it”.
As for the impact of sharing the leave, Ian says that as well as giving him a closer bond with Luke, it fostered a much better understanding of the day-to-day challenges of caregiving. “I feel I’ve got a better handle on what Amy went through in the first eight months and vice versa. It’s that thing of ‘I’ve had a really rubbish day because Luke decided he didn’t want a nap at all and now he’s really grumpy and I just want to sit on the sofa and eat cake and just have five minutes to myself’. I get that and totally understand why, whereas before I might have thought ‘why don’t you want to spend time with him?’.”
Amy suggests that far from impacting negatively on their careers, the decision to share the leave has also proved to be positive at work: “In a way we’ve probably been seen in a different light and been seen as a role model for other colleagues.”
There is still some way to go before leave-sharing becomes the accepted social norm, though, Ian admits. “So much has changed since my dad was looking after us. It’s much more accepted, it’s a lot better in terms of the finances for your family because he just had to take time off unpaid, and actually people in general are much more accepting of it. Whereas when he did it it was very, very strange, now I think it’s just “Oh, that’s interesting”.