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Diversity & Inclusion is a key strategic priority for Pearson and inclusive talent management is essential to our continued success
Through a range of leading approaches including flexible working policies such as agile, virtual and remote working, generous paternity leave entitlements and phased returns, we actively seek to retain and develop all our talent.
Our Employee Resource Groups spearhead our approach to Diversity & Inclusion, with Will UK for female leadership, progression & learning, Spectrum UK for LGBT, and Pearson Able UK championing disability & accessibility. Prime representing BAME.
We are also proud to be a Stonewall Founding Partner, and working towards the Disability Confident standard, and to be a Workingmums Top Employer.
Pearson were shortlisted in the Innovation in Flexible Working category at workingmums.co.uk 2019 Top Employer Awards.
Vishal Popat from Pearson talks about his experience of taking Shared Parental Leave.
The day Vishal Popat found out about Shared Parental Leave he spoke to his boss about it. Both he and she had never heard of it before. By the following morning she had messaged Vishal, having researched it and told him to 100% take it and enjoy himself.
Vishal, who is a senior talent adviser for technology and global products at learning company Pearson, did just that and says: “It was fantastic and the best thing I have ever done as well as the hardest.”
He had been with Pearson for around a year when he told HR that his wife was pregnant. They explained his options. He had assumed he would take two weeks’ paternity leave and return to work. Vishal was told about SPL. After talking it through with his wife, it was clear it was the best option for their family. “We grabbed it with both hands,” he says.
Vishal just had to fill in one form to get his four months off. He thought it would be easier for the business if he took the leave in one block so they could get someone in to cover for him. His wife, whose work contract had ended, was off at the same time as him.
Vishal Popat says his parental leave enabled him to forge a strong bond with his baby
Vishal says the fact of being around every day for four months helped forge a strong bond with his baby. In his NCT group every other dad went straight back to work after two weeks and he says they felt anxious about looking after their children on their own. Vishal, however, feels he knows what he is doing and has been through most scenarios. “I feel totally okay being alone with a child. It’s like second nature and my child can feel that. It is not just a mum that can have that relationship,” says Vishal.
He adds that taking the leave has had “a massively positive impact” on his relationship with his wife.
He has been telling all his friends about how fantastic the experience has been and explaining how it works. Many have since looked into it and he is sure it will become the norm.
Return to work
About four weeks before he was due to return to work Vishal tore a knee ligament, requiring an operation. He had to work from home for several weeks after his operation.
During his time off he had kept in touch with colleagues via a whatsapp group, but if he ever asked about work he was told to focus on his leave. The support from Pearson was great, he says. He adds that returning to work made him appreciate how difficult it must be for mums who have taken maternity leave to return. “Until you go through it yourself you do not realise how hard it is. It is like you leave your soul behind every day you go into work. It was definitely very difficult to start with, but it is easier now,” he says.
He admits that the initial few days when he returned to work and was no longer ‘job sharing’ the baby care were hard for his wife, although she soon adapted.
Vishal works full time, but can work two to three days a week from home. He says he would “1,000 per cent” take SPL again. “Going through an experience like that transforms your life and the way you think and makes you more empathetic to other people’s situations,” he says.
David Pautsch’s bosses at Pearson made it easy for him to commit to Shared Parental Leave. He returned to work focussed and with a new knowledge of nursery rhymes!
David Pautsch could be forgiven for finding the return to work after Shared Parental Leave particularly daunting. He went straight into a new job!
David delayed joining education and qualifications company Pearson so he could have a chunk of time with his daughter.
“I never thought about not taking Shared Parental Leave,” says David. “I commute and work long hours sometimes and I knew that those first few months were vital to develop a bond. So I wanted to have that bond and make it as strong as possible should it be tested when I may be absent later on.”
David took three months Shared Parental Leave before starting at Pearson as a senior development manager. He manages a team who put together new educational qualifications and assessments.
Pearson were happy to wait to get their man. And the flexibility didn’t stop there. “When I took the job I said I need to leave early one day a week to collect my daughter from nursery,” explains David. “In practice two days a week I either work from home or go early to pick up Lilly. I’ve had multiple managers and it’s never been a problem.”
David’s experience at work points up the importance of supportive and understanding managers in making life as a working parent succeed. And where employees get good managers they are likely to be grateful and loyal. “I cannot thank them enough,” adds David. “I appreciate that flexibility is a two way street.”
The experience has also given David some strong views on how bosses should cover a man’s Shared Parental Leave. Generally a woman would be replaced in the workplace for the duration of her maternity leave. But the college David was working at before going on SPL, and before joining Pearson, chose not to replace him for the three months he was off. David reckons that’s not the way to go about it. “If you’re doing Shared Parental Leave you’ve got to commit to it and make sure work doesn’t get in the way,” he says. “If everyone is covering bits of your job then I would want to be in on the emails to make sure it’s all OK. But you need to be able to switch off from work completely and focus on this thing that needs all your attention – your child.”
There’s no doubt SPL needs tweaked in law and in practice.
But it does broadly work for those that take it in its current form.
Shared Parental Leave seems to have made David a better employee. He says he came back to work from SPL refreshed and raring to go. And knowing he’d built up that bond with Lilly allowed him to focus on work. However he admits sending Lilly – who is now three-and-a-half – to nursery at first was hard. “I underestimated the guilt,” he cringes. “It’s taken a year to get over that guilt!”
David chose to take his three months of SPL alone. “It was really important to have that one one one time with Lilly,” he says. His wife returned to work after six months, but she set things up for David.
“I got involved with the NCT mums group,” he laughs. “They were all very welcoming and invited me for coffee and cake.”
He was the only dad at rhymetime though. “A lot of dads say they financially can’t afford SPL. But I think a lot of that is due to the gender stereotype of being the breadwinner. There’s a sort of macho thing of not doing parenting.” He’s advice for dads like that. “Get over it! The most important thing is this baby that needs looking after.
“I’m surprised that so few men decide to do it but those first months are crucial to create a bond. For me two weeks of paternity leave just wasn’t enough.”
As well as advice David drew up a funny list of observations that he’d noticed during his time on SPL just before he went back to work. He says they’ve struck a chord with mums and dads that have read them. So here they are in full:
David’s lessons of SPL
There is more than one verse to Row Your Boat and Hickory Dickory Dock..who knew?
Nursery Rhymes are more catchy than any pop song. So often found myself humming or singing a nursery rhyme without knowing it.
Sometimes you need the animal knowledge of Noah to make Old MacDonalds Farm work. There are never enough verses.
Not all baby changing facilities are equal. Newport Pagnell services needs to be condemned.
People in John Lewis don’t appreciate Lilly exploring her vocal chords.
Getting stuck in a traffic jam with a baby is no fun, especially with an exploding nappy.
Parent/Child parking spaces are never used by parents…unless they are collecting their pension whilst bringing up a baby.
Everybody in a supermarket will stop you if you are with a baby.
Favourite moment is when one man accused Lilly of giving him a death stare.
Check, check and check again the changing bag. Having to buy nappies whilst needing one is a messy and not to be repeated experience.
I’d recommend shared parental leave to anyone..it was an emotional, draining but brilliant experience