How John Lewis are leading the way on paternity leave

Customer care worker Peter McKenna is about to have his second child and he tells Working Dads how his employer is helping him balance home and work.

john lewis paternity leave


Peter McKenna, 33 (pictured above with his family), has been with John Lewis for 11 years and works as a Knowledge Author in Customer Care for both John Lewis And Waitrose. He is about to go on paternity leave with his second child and explains how his company is supporting him.

How does John Lewis allow you to work flexibly?

Before and during the Covid pandemic, I am able to work from home. Saving time on travel allows me to help get [my daughter] Orlagh ready for school and pick her up.

I have a set shift but I am able to change this if required. I can slide my shift to work later or take a few hours out and work it back in the evenings or weekends. This helps with appointments, being there at scan and midwife appointments and taking care of Orlagh after school. The flexibility means I won’t miss any of the big occasions.

Were you nervous asking for flexible working?

Flexible working is one of the great benefits of working for John Lewis and is widely communicated so I wasn’t nervous. There is lots of information on our Partner Intranet to explain Flexible working and the options we have. We are encouraged to have conversations with our line manager to discuss our work/life balance and find the right shift pattern for ourselves.

You are just about to go on paternity, how was wrangling that with your line manager and what are your plans?

My wife is due early February and I will be taking paternity leave as soon as the baby is born. The John Lewis policy gives equal leave for both parents so I will be taking 14 weeks leave with full pay and I have added 3 weeks worth of holidays at the end. My manager was fully supportive of this and asked that’s all I wanted to take (our policy allows us to take 14 weeks full pay followed by 12 weeks at 50% pay). As it’s a long time off we have arranged to keep in touch once every 4 weeks to check on how the family and I are and if there is anything major at work I need to know.

Having such a long time off has removed a lot of stress in trying to get everything ready and perfect for baby arriving. I can look forward to the time off not worrying about pay or only having limited time to spend with the new arrival.  I will be able to enjoy building a relationship with the baby and helping with the night time feeds/changes without the worry of work the next day. With this being our second child, extended leave means I can help with looking after the baby and taking care of our daughter Orlagh.

We plan to take it easy for a few weeks and get the nursery finished. Once baby is older we can go on trips during the week rather than always at the weekend so places will be less busy.

Once my leave is over, I have the option to do a phased return for a few weeks. I would work less hours without loss of pay, helping with the transition of going back to work.

john lewis paternity leave

What do you think companies get wrong with their family-friendly policies?

Most companies appear only to think about the mother needing time off to bond with a new baby. It’s important for fathers to have time to create a bond with the baby and help around the house. Pay is always a worry and some companies do offer extended leave but at reduced or no pay. A lot of parents can’t afford to take reduced pay, especially with the cost of raising a child.

Raising a child isn’t just restricted to birth parents, some people adopt a child. Not giving adopters the same time off a birth parents isn’t fair.

I think John Lewis have got it spot on giving both birth parents and adopters the same time off when a new child enters the family. We also have a Working Parents Network where Partners share their experience and advice on being a parent. This opens up a lot of support for those who need it. Every company should have  a network like this.

How do you see your career at John Lewis working moving forwards?

John Lewis focus on the happiness of their Partners which makes it easier to forge a career. Flexible working allows me to focus on a career and raise a family, I don’t need to make a choice. I can help take care of my family and be there for the big occasions without worrying about taking time off or unpaid leave.

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