I’ll start with a divisive statement: "I believe male loneliness to be the biggest...read more
Dad Harpreet Likhari was the first manager to take 20 weeks of parental leave at the FSCS and it benefitted his whole family
Love can generate a warm feeling inside. Perhaps a cosy winters night curled up by a fire could engender the same. But work?
Harpreet Likhari insists it’s possible. Keen to be an equal parent he was looking into taking Shared Parental Leave when he learned that his employer, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), offered something even better. “FSCS offers 20 weeks of paid parental leave. I got a very warm feeling inside when I found that out. They don’t have to do it, but it shows how much FSCS cares about their people, genuinely cares.”
Harpreet is an SCV Assurance Manager with the FSCS. That means he checks the data the FSCS holds on the financial organisations it is responsible for.
Basically the FSCS protects customers when financial firms fail. If a firm goes out of business and can’t recompense customers, the FSCS steps in to pay the compensation instead. So they need to ensure their data is up to scratch to ensure customers get compensation swiftly. No-one grows up wanting to be a SCV Assurance Manager. “I wanted to do something that contributes to society,” Harpreet explains. “And we don’t do the work just because in theory people might need our help. We’ve had over 60 credit union failures in my time here and each time we’ve been able to protect their customers by returning their money, in most cases in a matter of days.”
When he learned he was going to be a father Harpreet was intent on being involved with his new arrival. “Becoming a father meant so much to me,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I could give as much time as possible. I knew it would be good for me and good for my daughter and I could not imagine leaving my wife to handle it all alone. Even with the two of us it’s been difficult, like all parenting. But I’ve been able to really appreciate the enormous challenges, the sense of responsibility. My wife has done an amazing job. And I think I’ve been able to empathise more than if I’d gone back to work after two weeks like many other dads do.”
Harpreet looked at taking Shared Parental Leave. He was prepared to take unpaid leave if necessary. Instead he became one of the first people at FSCS to take advantage of its generous and equal parental leave policy.
Parents get up to 20 weeks at full pay. Which Harpreet took after daughter Mehr arrived in May 2019.
Of course having a policy is well and good but it needs to be matched by a culture that makes it not just acceptable but easy to use. And it needs to be modelled at all levels of the firm. Harpreet was the first manager to use the policy, sending a signal that everyone could benefit.
“My manager was really positive about it. They understood that being a first time dad is a time to treasure.”
Another way FSCS shows its commitment to parental leave is that Harpreet’s leave was covered by colleagues. Most firms cover maternity leave. Some companies don’t bother covering paternity leave, lending it a lower status. Not at FSCS. They used Harpreet’s time away as an opportunity for others to step up, learn, take on the responsibility, and enhance their skills.
So it’s good for the FSCS and their employees. Harpreet returned to work more focussed, he felt able to give his full attention to his job rather than worrying how things were going at home. He said, “There’s a massive pay off for companies that do this. The employee will feel good about it and good about their employer for a long time.”
But it had benefits for him at home too. “Taking that time off helped make the connection with my daughter and with my partner. It made us all stronger.”
And it made life easier when the pandemic struck. After just six months back in the office Harpreet was working from home full time due to lockdown. But because he’d had that time off after Mehr was born the process of slotting into home and family life was easier. And it meant he was around to see his daughter hit those precious milestones like taking her first steps. It’s why he’s likely to continue with some form of flexible working as lockdown unwinds. And that won’t be a problem as FSCS continues to embrace flex. For example, if a member of Harpreet’s team has to go into the office and they are nervous of being around people during the pandemic he’s happy for them to go in at the weekend – when public transport will be quieter – and then take the time back in the week. That sort of attitude has benefits both ways. “If, for example, an organisation does fail and we have to work late everyone is more than willing to do what’s necessary.”
Fundamentally, the key to a happy home and work life is embodied by a simple step that FSCS takes around paternity leave and flexible working. Explains Harpreet, “FSCS trusts people. And that means a heck of a lot.”
And that’s how you engender warm feelings in your workforce.