To SPL or not to SPL?

Guest writer Adam Lanigan speaks to a friend with a tough parental leave decision to make.

shared parental leave

 

For a new father, the decision to take Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is a huge one. It is a commitment that shows how much involvement you want to have in your child’s early life and that you and your partner are going to be equal in terms of raising your child. SPL is such a precious time, but it is also a short amount of time. So what happens when a job opportunity comes up just before you are about to start? That was the scenario for Dave Goley, a structural engineer in the defence industry. He had contemplating changing job, but the arrival of his second child in June 2020, along with his plan for a second bout of SPL pushed it towards the back of his mind, before an unexpected phone call brought it to the forefront.  I spoke to him about his decision.

Frustration

“I was getting a bit frustrated, working from home with no end of that in sight, but I also knew if I moved that I would not get any Shared Parental Leave, so I wouldn’t say I was actively looking for a job. But out of the blue and two months before I was due to start my SPL, I was approached by a company, for whom I had already done a bit of work. I was quite keen to work for them and I knew they were quite keen to have me.  That put me in a strong position. The person they wanted me to replace was retiring and he said that he would go when they had brought someone else in to replace him. But they had already been looking for six months. I didn’t know if they would be willing to wait a few more months until my three months leave had ended.

I had done SPL with my older son – in fact, I had been the first person at the company to do it and had helped to write the policy – and the thought of not being able to have that same time with my younger son made me feel guilty. I would have felt that I had short-changed him. You don’t get that time back, you only get it once. I spoke to my dad and other people of that generation and they wished they would have been able to do something like that when they were younger, but it was just not an option then. It had been good for my wife, Emma, and I to have seen both sides of raising a child, to be at work all day and come home to a screaming child and the one of being with the screaming child all day. I think that helps for a healthier relationship.

I knew that you needed to be employed for a year before being entitled to paid SPL, so I knew I was not going to be paid for it. I had to decide what the most important thing was – the leave or the money. We’re quite fortunate in our house that our wages are fairly similar, so it wasn’t as much of an impact for us for me to go off for three months on statutory leave, as it might have been if there was a big difference.

Negotiation

We managed to negotiate for me to have two-and-a-half months of unpaid leave.  To be honest, I don’t think I would have moved if they had played hardball and not allowed me to have it. I don’t think I would have wanted to join a company that didn’t appreciate both work life and family life. It took a few phone calls spread over a couple of days. It was on my mind but because I wasn’t desperate to move, I was not stressing over it too much. I had decided that if they did not give me any time off, I was not going to be moving. I felt they were keen enough to have me, so I thought they would give me the leave.

Looking back now, I wish I had asked for the full 12 weeks and dug my heels in as I think they probably would have gone for it. But ten was more than enough and I did get to spend a good amount of time with my son.

Having now been lucky enough to have this time with both my boys, I would definitely recommend it to any new dads. It is very different to your two weeks of paternity leave. You are on your own as a dad and you do learn a lot more. I think it helps out later down the line as you are much more involved. I don’t feel like my wife has a role and I have a role – we both do the same things, as there is a lot of crossover. It’s not unusual when I take them out on my own and I do feel good for doing it. And it’s what should be done more as it helps both of you in a partnership out.”

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