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David Campbell knows the ins and outs of Shared Parental Leave because he works at Acas. But he really understood the benefits once he became a dad
You don’t need to take months of Shared Parental Leave to make a difference.
Evidence suggests dads that take any extra paternity leave unleash a slew of benefits for them and their family in terms of health and happiness. David Campbell is part of that evidence. The Bristol based publicity manager for government service Acas took a fortnight of Shared Parental Leave to bolster his standard two weeks of paternity leave with both his children.
“Two weeks might not sound like that much but I think it was quite a significant factor in making me a better dad,” he says.
First time round the experience was complicated by daughter Ellen having to spend her first few weeks in hospital. By the time the family was home David had limited time left before having to return to work.
Second time round things were more straightforward when second daughter Megan arrived. And David could really feel the benefit of SPL. “I was in there from the get go. Being more relaxed meant I could bond more with Megan. She’d settle for me at first and that makes a big difference. We had time to get used to the idea of being a family of four.”
“Having a new baby is nothing like a holiday, but when you take two weeks off for a holiday you’re often only just relaxed at the end of that two weeks. Having an extra two weeks after my paternity leave gave me time to get my head around our new situation. And it made a difference to how relaxed the house felt overall.”
That extra time made a huge difference to David’s work life too. After Ellen’s first tricky weeks he was probably not ready to return to work. “I was a wreck,” he admits. “I was so tired, so exhausted. But those additional two weeks second time round made a world of difference. I was eager to get back to work, I was engaged, and unlike the first time I was actually functioning!”
David was always keen to be involved as a dad. “For forever and a day I’ve been a real believer in the need for equality,” he explains. “I wanted to be around and to be supportive.” But the current Shared Parental Leave policy means that for a dad to use it mum has to give up some of her maternity leave. Entirely reasonably David’s partner Cat wanted to make the most of her maternity leave. It’s a situation many couples will recognise. And it points up the problems with the current set up. Giving dads a ring-fenced element of ‘daddy leave’ would solve the conundrum.
Shared Parental Leave doesn’t “add time” for parents it simply allows for it to be moved from one parent to another, essentially reducing one parents time to increase the others. However David points out that it is possible to utilise parental leave to replace the weeks given up but it should be noted that this is commonly unpaid and is limited.
David understands the policy better than most having worked at Acas, the government’s expert arm on workplace policy and best practice. Anyone thinking about applying for Shared Parental Leave can find a template letter and advice on the Acas website.
And David reckons that while the legislation can seem complicated most parents can use it to their advantage. “Most options are permissible within the legislation. When I worked on the Acas helpline almost all the calls I took on SPL ended in me saying that what the caller wanted to do would be fine. If more parents seeking to take SPL realised how flexible and possible it is then perhaps more would take it.”
For guidance on how to take shared parental leave visit the Acas website here.