Today Penny’s husband returned to work after seven weeks shared parental leave. It’s a hot topic at the moment and one we’re keen to discuss in our new family category as there can be a lot of confusion over eligibility. Penny from Birth Of A Mummy has a dedicated section over on her blog but for now let’s hear about her family’s experience.

Imagine the scene. Friday night, the first trimester. Pregnancy hormones raging and you are struggling to eat food due to morning sickness. Then your husband drops a bombshell. “I think you should give up 8 weeks of mat leave so that I can take shared parental leave”. “Woah, back up. Me give up some of my precious maternity leave. Basically so that you can have an extended holiday. Not a chance kiddo.”

That was the scene in my house about 13 months ago. My husband, not so subtly confirming that he wanted to be part of only 2% of UK fathers who take shared parental leave {SPL}.

I am now quite ashamed by my reaction. With hindsight my reaction should have been one of encouragement and pride. My husband, after all, was saying that he wanted to fully support me, have a decent chance at bonding with our baby and wanted a bit of equality in raising our baby.

I won’t lie, I did have some concerns. How would we afford to live and pay the mortgage? How would my husband be perceived at work? And what would happen to my husband’s careers prospects as a result?

We are in a fortunate position. My husband, W, is a banking lawyer {yep I know, sexy isn’t it}. He works for a law firm that puts their employees at the heart of their business. After listening to their staff, the firm decided to offer an enhanced SPL policy {alongside a package of other pro-family policies}. My money concern was therefore not warranted as W received near enough his full salary whilst off. The firm have proudly promoted their family centric policies and as such we were both comfortable that there would be no negative impact on W’s career. It is, however, really sad that other parents are gobsmacked when I tell them about the pro-family policies we have the benefit of. It is 2018 people, these type of policies should be the norm.

So how has it been? Well SPL has been the best thing ever for our family.

It has been amazing to see our son and W develop a fantastic bond. Sure a bond would have formed had he not taken SPL but this is something different. It would have taken them years of weekends, and the occasional family holiday, to form the bond they now have. It is noticeable that our son is now happy being consoled by W. My heart melts almost daily when I hear our son chuckling away as they play together.

There will never be an opportunity in W’s working life for him to take such a long time off work whilst still being paid. We all know how fast our children grow up. By taking SPL, W has had the opportunity to experience all those amazing “firsts” that happen in the first year. W has also had a chance to join the ‘mum life’ and come along to GP appointments, weigh ins and baby classes.

We have both matured as parents. Our parenting now feels like a relationship of equals. W has always been keen to help out, work permitting, but now we are a real team. There are certainly no blue or pink jobs in our parenting relationship. We are both determined that our team ethic will continue when we both return to work.

W has admitted that he now appreciates being the stay at home parent is not easy. He now has a much greater empathy for what I do at home. Not only has this made our parenting relationship feel stronger but I hope it will change W at work. I hope his SPL experience, will mean that he would be more supportive of a colleague who needs flexible working etc. We need more Dads to undertake SPL in order for the work places of tomorrow to be different.

Having W’s support at home, has, unexpectedly, made me feel stronger about my own career. W has seen the stay at home parent life and he now better understands why I want to go back to work. We are also clear about how the family needs to operate for my return to work to be successful.

An overview of SPL from

You may be able to get Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) if you’re having a baby or adopting a child.

If you’re eligible for SPL you can use it to take leave in blocks separated by periods of work, instead of taking it all in one go.

To start SPL or ShPP the mother must end her maternity leave (for SPL) or her Maternity Allowance or maternity pay (for ShPP). If she doesn’t get maternity leave (but she ends her Maternity Allowance or pay early) her partner might still get SPL.

If you’re adopting then you or your partner must end any adoption leave or adoption pay early instead.

If you’re eligible you can take:

the remaining leave as SPL (52 weeks minus any weeks of maternity or adoption leave)
the remaining pay as ShPP (39 weeks minus any weeks of maternity pay, maternity allowance or adoption pay)
If neither of you is entitled to maternity leave or adoption leave then SPL will be 52 weeks minus any weeks of maternity pay, Maternity Allowance or adoption pay.

You can share SPL and ShPP between you if you’re both eligible.

We appreciate that we were incredibly lucky that W had the benefit of a fantastic SPL policy. The reality is that in 2018 we should be pushing all employers to offer much better benefits.
In a time of equality it doesn’t seem right that Dads aren’t allowed to see their children grow in the way mums can. No one should be put off from taking SPL because of concerns about their career or money. If your partner’s work don’t offer enhanced SPL then get your partner to talk to their employer. It is amazing how bosses are encouraging of SPL when employees are pro-active. Today we need to start pushing employers and questioning them about SPL, flexible working and other pro-family policies. If we do that, when our children are adults taking SPL or working flexible will be the norm. And for that society will be a much better place.

We will be around on the comments section to answer any SPL queries you may have. We are also blogging and instagramming about our SPL experience.