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Pete Bainbridge clocked up five months of Shared Parental Leave and he’s keen to talk up the benefits
Pete Bainbridge understands the power of role models. His brother took Shared Parental Leave and that started him thinking about doing the same. After he returned from SPL the colleague who had been covering for him also took advantage of the scheme.
He wants to spread the word about the advantages of Shared Parental Leave. “I’m a strong believer that men should take more of a role in their children’s lives and Shared Parental Leave allowed me to do that.”
When Pete’s son Charlie was born five years ago he took the standard two weeks of paternity leave and bolstered it with a bit of holiday. Second time round he was determined to do more. “I just wanted to be around. My wife and I have always had a fairly equal relationship, we both work full time, we have similar incomes, taking Shared Parental Leave meant we could maintain that equality.”
Pete was off for around four months after daughter Annie was born. That time brought him closer to both his children.He feels more ‘in tune’ with Annie thanks to having that time around her. She calls for him as often as she calls for her mum. Pete reckons he can settle Annie as easily (or not easily!) as wife Leanne can. That’s a huge boon for the couple.
But there was an unexpected side effect to his SPL. “One of the biggest benefits was the time I had with my oldest. Charlie was two-and-a-half when his sister was born so in many ways he needed more attention than the baby in the early days. It was great to spend time with him.”
And it wasn’t just the kids that benefitted from having Pete around. “Leanne was certainly down, it may have been post natal depression. With me around she had some reassurance and felt better about it.”
With Annie born in November Pete was able to combine SPL with Christmas holidays to clock up around four months with his family before returning to work in spring 2019. But that return proved trickier than he anticipated. “The reintroduction process took longer than I thought it would. There was an assumption among some people that I’d just been on a long holiday. Actually you drop off all the emails after a month and basically disappear after a couple. It was a challenge working out what I’d missed and catching up with it. But my biggest takeaway was that if it was hard for me after a few months it must be even more daunting for women returning from a year of maternity leave. I hope that makes me more understanding. It’s another reason I think more men should take SPL, then more will understand the pressures women face.”
His then employers were keen to learn from Pete’s experience though. They signed him up to mentor dads returning from paternity leave and sought to smooth out the process.
Actually taking Shared Parental Leave was fairly straightforward. A sympathetic line manager was key. “It felt a bit like the firm were feeling their way, that’s inevitable with a policy that’s not used all that much. But my boss was very supportive, he encouraged me to do it and was really supportive when I came back.”
Unfortunately, like so many working dads, Pete lost his job last year during the pandemic. But he’s since found a new role as Insight and Operations Manager with consultants SRM Europe. He was hired as part of a team who’d previously worked together and who are all dads. “It was interesting and different to job search as part of a team. But we’ve all got kids and family was an important part of where we wanted to go.”
The SRM role is home based allowing Pete to do the school and nursery runs (when schools are open). “In the past I’ve been sitting on the Piccadilly line working out that if the train moves in the next minute I can still get back to nursery on time. That’s not an issue any more. Obviously we’re home schooling at the moment but even when we get back to some sort of normality I’ll still be able to and still want to do the morning drop off. I can amble back and pick up a coffee on the way if I want.
“Most importantly without the commute I’ve got two hours of my day back. That’s two hours I can spend with my kids.”
Shared Parental Leave gave him a better bond with his children and flexible working has allowed Pete to be around more for his family. The benefits of working differently for dads are clear.
And there’s interesting lessons from Pete’s experience for employers too. Supportive line managers can make the SPL process smoother. While top employers will consider the other end of the leave too – helping dads transition back to the workplace after extended leave and providing mentoring can be invaluable for the individual dads involved but also in signalling that the company takes dads and their roles and responsibilities seriously.