Stephen Colthrust took 20 weeks of paternity leave from his role with the Financial Services Compensation Scheme
Extended parental leave is not just a nice to have. Ask Stephen Colthrust. He describes the 20 weeks of paternity leave he had from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) as “a lifesaver”
His third child, daughter Ariah, was born last March, just as lockdown began. “It would have been absolute chaos if I’d had to be working at that time,” he says. “I’d have had to focus on work, not on my kids and everything else – looking after the baby, looking after my sons and doing homeschooling – would’ve have been on my wife.”
Instead Stephen took advantage of the generous parental leave policy at the FSCS. And he felt the benefits. When second son Darien was born Stephen only had two weeks paternity leave, that relegated his role to picking up oldest son Simeon while his wife managed the sleeps and feeds with Darien. It was different this time round. “Compared to my other two children I was much more present with Ariah. I’ve got a different relationship with her.”
And that gave him the opportunity to get more hands on and more confident in his parenting abilities. He explained, “Even something as simple as putting her clothes on, I could see she has this habit of spinning when you do it. It’s great. And I was able to share those moments with my wife.”
There’s one very obvious metric that shows how valuable Stephen’s time at home being dad was. “My first son’s first word sounded something like ‘brick’. My second son said ‘mama’. But with my third the first thing she said was ‘dada’. That has to be because I was around so much more!”
Stephen is a senior finance business partner for non-ops at the FSCS. 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.
Stephen’s role involves looking after financial management of the inward facing side of the organisation, including areas like finance and legal functions.
The organisation is proud of its offer to parents. “They encourage it,” explained Stephen. “They don’t hide it in the small print.
“The reason the policy is there is because they want you to use it. They want you to put your family first for that period.
“Dads in particular often don’t get that opportunity, don’t get that time. So it’s important that they take it.”
And the organisation’s enlightened attitude towards parents continues beyond the period of parental leave. Stephen’s got a nursery place lined up for Ariah in September but the family are short of childcare till then. While Stephen’s wife is relying on taking annual leave from her job to make up the shortfall in childcare he has flexed his hours. Anyone who’s done part time or compressed hours – Stephens doing his normal hours in just four days – knows it can create a range of headaches around holiday allowance and such like. Little things like that are squared off at the FSCS. “They made it clear that they’d make it work,” smiles Stephen. “And for me it works.”
Of course the FSCS get something in return. A more loyal and motivated employee. Previously in his career Stephen’s tended to clock up no more than a couple of years with other firms before moving on. He’s been with the FSCS four years now. “100 per cent I feel like a better employee. If I work over my hours I don’t feel like I need to get that time back or that it’s a sacrifice. Because I know there’s give and take.”
And by taking care of the little details like holiday allowance as well as offering the big ticket parental leave policy the FSCS sends a clear message to employees that they’re committed to a family friendly agenda. Stephen’s clocked that message and appreciates it.
“One of the things that’s strong in my mind is that they’ve allowed me to do this. They haven’t done it for me as a favour, but because it’s in line with the values of the FSCS. And in turn I’m working to maintain and promote those values. I joined from the charity sector and I see FSCS as helping people too. They’re caring. They are saying ‘We know this is what you need’.
The next challenge for FSCS will be maintaining those values as restrictions ease and we enter an era of hybrid working. Stephen’s no concerns on that front. “They know there’s no point in coming into the office just to sit at a laptop when you could be doing that at home. But I can see the value of coming into the office sometimes to see colleagues and hold face to face meetings. Everyone sees the value in being flexible.”