Andy King is a strategy manager in the company’s general insurance claims department. Here he explains how his 16 weeks of parental leave were vital to his family.
I’ve worked for the last 10 years as a strategy manager. I live in Stockport, just outside Manchester with my partner and our two children – my stepson, 15 and our one-year-old daughter.
It’s just classed as parental leave. It’s part of our policy [and] it’s up to the parents whether they take it or not. But I took two weeks at the start and tagged a week’s annual leave onto it which worked out really well because my daughter was in hospital for the first week in the neonatal intensive care unit. So it would have been a week at home and back to work.
Then my partner and I agreed we would have a month off together – almost a bit like a handover I suppose. So I took 16 weeks in total – two at the start and 14 [more] over the summer.
[After that month], she went back to work and moved into a new job. I had two months at home with [our daughter] India looking after the house and just keeping on top of things. And it gave her massive peace of mind that she just sort of handed over the reins. She’d signed me off in the handover period!
It was interesting because when they announced the new parental leave policy would be enhanced leave for the second parent, it didn’t particularly mean too much to me because I wasn’t planning a family.
But when my partner was pregnant, I was actually just in the process of having a conversation about moving into the role that I’m in now. And so I spoke to my manager and said, ‘Look, I just want to put it out there. My partner’s pregnant, I’ll be taking the leave.’
And he was like, ‘Absolutely you make sure you take the leave, I couldn’t support it more.’ But what was really helpful was that my previous manager had taken the leave a year or two before. He was like, ‘You absolutely have to make sure that you take it because you’ll never get the opportunity again and it’s so incredible.’ So they were just really, really supportive.
A few years ago we might have only had access to two weeks plus annual leave and that’s still the case for so many parents. And I can’t imagine having only had that two weeks with her.
It was around the time that India had just started sort of crawling. In my head I had this great idea that I can do all the chores, put her in a Moses basket and she’ll be chill. And then of course, by the time that it came to me being on leave, it was like, wow, this is a new proposition. She was a lot more active – you could do more with her. But I was thinking I could have done the cooking and the cleaning and things while she just sort of lay there. And now I see why that’s so difficult.
I still got the chores done, just to be clear! I just had to work around the naps a lot more carefully.
It shocked me that I was quite nervous [coming back to work]. I was a little bit anxious, I won’t lie. But within a couple of hours of being back in work it’s back to normal and everyone was really happy to see me and you sort of get into things as best you can.
This probably sounds really silly, but when I came back to work I was so excited to talk about having had this leave and how special it was. But by this point the policy had been in place for a good couple of years. It was almost the norm for a lot of people and I guess it’s a great thing that it wasn’t that special to people.
But it was a really interesting comparison because close friends of ours had a child two weeks after India was born and my friend had the two weeks leave and then it was straight back to work and that was it.
Hopefully more businesses and employers expand their parental leave because it was just so valuable.
Obviously it’s flexible. People will take the lead as to what suits their family and take it when it suits their family, but it feels very normal at this point. I would hope there’s nobody in the business that’s got a fear of speaking to their manager about taking the leave. It’s certainly not the experience I’ve seen from the many people that have taken it. It’s very normalised and I think probably just appreciative that it exists when we see the difference in friends and family that don’t have access to it.