Paul Mouland found a firm whose outlook fitted his when it came to being a dad when he joined Metro Bank
Offering men fully paid and lengthy paternity leave makes it easier for them to take it. Sounds self evident. And yet it’s still not that common.
Paul Mouland, recruitment operations manager at Metro Bank, proves that it works.
When his son Elliot was born nine years ago Paul got his standard two weeks of paternity leave. Next time round, with daughter Phoebe, Paul suggested to his partner that they split the paternity leave. But his wife, perfectly reasonably, wanted to use the entirety of her entitlement. But when baby Kai came along 16 months ago Paul could make the case that while his wife could go back to work on a full time wage he could take three months of paternity leave fully paid from Metro Bank and the couple wouldn’t be out of pocket. So that’s what they did.
Said Paul, “I could say with more conviction that I wanted to take more leave with Kai because it made financial sense.”
But the benefits are more than just economic. “I definitely have a better relationship with Kai than I did with the others at the same age,” explains Paul. “If he’s teething for example he’s much more accepting of dad.
“When you’ve only got a couple of weeks paternity leave then within a couple of weeks of going back to work the baby inevitably reverts to type. They don’t see so much of you, they hardly know you so they revert to needing mummy.”
Because his partner works in the NHS Paul has always been hands on with his kids while she has worked long shifts and/or night shifts. But he’s still faced some typical responses to a dad getting involved in childcare.
“If I did something with one of the kids like getting into a mess when changing a nappy and my wife and her friend laughed. That’s fine. But consider how long they’d had to practise. After two children my wife had had two years of practise compared to my four weeks.
“Taking three months of paternity leave allowed me to close that gap a little bit. And it’s not just the childcare, it drips into all domestic chores. You end up with blue jobs and pink jobs around the home. I found myself loading the washing machine and realising I couldn’t remember the last time I’d done that.
“It also makes you appreciate how little spare time there is, how much of a mental challenge it can be to entertain a nine-month-old for a whole day!”
Paul is convinced that offering men more opportunities to get involved at home is the way to level up gender equality.
He explained, “I’m absolutely in the camp where it is unfathomable that women get poorly treated because they are pregnant or have to deal with stupid questions about their family plans at interview. You look at the way men get promoted into senior roles and yet so many businesses take off when they get a diverse leadership team.
“One way to address that is not to take things away from men or point the finger, but to give men incentives to stay at home.
“I’ve never seen a reason I shouldn’t take time off to be a dad. I’ve always thought I’d contribute.”
Luckily at Metro Bank he found an employer who accommodate that outlook. No sucking of teeth when Paul asked to take his extended paternity leave. “They were really supportive, I never thought they’d be anything else. In fact they weren’t just supportive, they were celebratory. The culture is to celebrate men going off and taking full advantage of the paternity leave policy.”
Recent research into Shared Parental Leave best practice found that that sort of role modelling and promoting stories of men taking paternity leave is exactly what’s required to encourage more men to get more involved in family life. And when they do that benefits everyone.
With Metro Bank only clocking up 10 years in business this year it’s still something of a challenger bank. That’s reflected in a corporate culture that’s a long way from some of its more established competitors in banking. “The culture is to be more positive and constructive,” explains Paul.
That followed through to Pauls return from paternity leave. The company was keen to learn from his experience. “Our policy is the same for anyone whether they are a same-sex partner or adopting or a dad looking for paternity leave. But I had to read through everything to find the bits that applied to me. My feedback was to make it all simpler, so that’s what they have tried to do since.”
Again, that’s a finding from the recent Birmingham Uni best practice research; make the process as simple as possible for dads and line managers. Metro Bank paternity leave seems to be leading the way already.