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Business Mums Returning To Work Shared Parental Leave

Parental Leave At Nestlé – A New Era?

Parental leave – or maternity and paternity leave as it is commonly known – has been under scrutiny for some time. The introduction of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) in 2015 was a small step towards recognising both parents play a significant role in the first year of a child’s life. However, with only 7% of workers taking advantage of this (You Gov and Winckworth), is there more to be done by organisations themselves?

In theory SPL offers a solution to gender equality. However, it hasn’t created the big shift it intended to do. There are also many more factors to consider as parents. Birth recovery, for birth-giving parents, breastfeeding and bonding with their new child is important. However, often comes the burden of feeling like this extended leave will be detrimental to career progression for mothers. Fathers – who in most cases get the grand total of two weeks off which can suffer with a severely impacted work-life-balance. Fathers miss important milestones with their children and this out-dated, traditional model simply reinforces mum dealing with the kids, dad going to work.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Of course, if this suits your family, there is nothing wrong with this. But what about for those families where this isn’t ideal? Also for same-sex parents and adoptive parents, leave entitlement can be significantly less in some organisations. Traditional parental leave and SPL do not offer the choices some parents’ desire. It is therefore down to the organisations themselves in charge of such policies to take action.

One organisation that has done just that is Nestlé. They recognised the balance of family life and work are of paramount importance to employees. Thus saw the need for change and modernisation. Nestlé introduced their Parental Support Policy.

For Nestlé there are no longer separate policies and entitlements for maternity, paternity, adoption and surrogacy leave. They have done a fantastic job of bringing all scenarios into one policy. Not only is this incredibly easy for employees to navigate, it also encourages a gender-neutral approach. Additionally, employees are eligible for parental leave from day one of employment. As a Career Coach working mainly with mums, I know all too well the stories of “sticking it out”. Staying in a job you aren’t happy in simply because you need the good maternity leave on offer from your employer. With this available from day one at Nestlé, this will no doubt also support their hiring and attraction strategy.

Parental Leave – The Nestlé Way

The core element of the new parental leave policy at Nestlé centres around choosing to take Primary or Secondary Caregiver leave. As Primary, this looks and feels a lot like standard maternity leave (Up to 52 weeks of leave, pay up to 18 weeks with 10 KIT Days). Secondary Caregiver Leave is much more generous than standard paternity leave. Secondary Caregiver Leave allows you to take up to 12 weeks off at any stage within the first year of the new child entering your family. Four of these are fully paid. The key thing is either can apply to you – whether you are giving birth or not.

I shared some of the detail with some working mum groups on Facebook. Some were a little shocked. Why would a mum only want 12 weeks off? Doesn’t she need to recover and establish breastfeeding? Don’t the titles reinforce stereotypes of being a primary or a secondary carer for your own child? My answer to all of this is, “but isn’t in fantastic to have the choice? Isn’t it wonderful to not dictate what should happen in your family because of gender or route to having a child?”

The reality is, since the introduction of the policy just 7% of those taking primary caregiver leave have been male. However, prior to the policy, the option would not have been available in this form – only via the constraints of SPL could they have got anywhere near. We can expect numbers to increase as at present it’s early stages.

Holly Birkett, Co-Director of the Equal Parenting Project at the University of Birmingham, has spoken about the positive knock-on effect. “While at an individual level more time off and maternity pay for women may look positive, actually it can lead to more women dropping out and it affecting their earnings and career progression (negatively) over time,” she says.

Having a choice about parental leave at Nestlé is key

Several of those I conversed with about this policy really saw the benefit. The key theme being the benefit of choice. Many birth-giving mothers may well still take Primary Caregiver Leave. However, for any that would prefer to return to work sooner, there is now a choice.

Nic Hammarling, Head of Diversity at Pearn Kandola says “I constantly hear from men that they want the opportunity to take a more active role in caring for their children. However, many are intimidated by the idea of asking their employer for time off work. In a workplace environment, to be nurturing and caring isn’t often expected of men and. As such, many are wary of the backlash they may receive for asking for time away to be with their children. Increasing paternity leave from two to four weeks, for example, could actually move us further away from equality because it still reinforces that the mother should be the primary carer,” she has said. With Nestlé’s policy not stating maternity or paternity, but allowing parents to choose the role they take is a huge move towards a more equal space.

This benefit was also noted by a mum who works in a senior role within FMCG. She shared “I would imagine, when a father-to-be shares that the baby is on the way, just having this policy in place means a conversation happens. A Conversation at work that asks which type of leave best suits his family. This results in a further conversation at home to make that decision. This can only be positive as it triggers the switch to talk about balance. To talk about who will do what and how involved will each parent be. It allows the father to have a conversation he may not otherwise have felt comfortable raining himself at work. If this was an option for my husband when my children were born, I think we would have gone for it. At least with the second one – with my partner taking Primary Caregiver Leave”.

Nestlé supporting decisions

The mum I quote above is right. Nestlé provide all parents to be with a decision tree to help them figure out which type of leave best suits their family unit. They also ensure parents know that they can take advantage of parental mentoring through the Parent Pal mentoring scheme, join the online parenting community Parent Talk, and use an online parent coaching app to further support their parenthood journey.

There of course is still a long way to go to get this totally right. I doubt as a society we will ever reach the perfect plan for parental leave. As more organisations shift their thinking as Nestlé has, we will begin to see the change we all hope for.

Nestlé and inclusivity

Of course many families will still choose to take the more traditional pattern of leave. This is totally fine – not everybody needs or wants to do anything different. But by allowing choice and recognising all parents equally, Nestlé at least are moving towards becoming much more, truly inclusive. I can’t wait to see the journey at Nestlé and learn more about phase two.

Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach helping parents feeling stuck in their careers, find their paths back to career happiness. Find Rebecca via her website www.rebeccaamincoaching.co.uk; Facebook Page and Facebook Group, Career Happy Mums.

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Dads Gender Pay Gap Shared Parental Leave

Shared Parental Leave

It’s Potential Value To Flexible Working

How Many Even Know What Shared Parental Leave Is? 

How many know how to find out more information about Shared Parental Leave? 

Does it even work for people? 

How many have experienced it?

Around 285,000 couples every year qualify for Shared Parental Leave, but it is estimated that take up could be as low as 2% in the UK. Why is uptake so low and what benefits are there to better uptake?

With Childcare options in the UK being known as incredibly expensive could SPL be the first step to alleviating this pressure?

Why Aren’t People Taking Shared Parental Leave?

What is stopping parents from using Shared Parental Leave?:

  • Lack of awareness of it’s very existence from both parents to be and organisations!
  • Maternity / paternity Leave policies that need updating which will prompt discussion.
  • The lack of enhanced paternity pay available. Many fathers are stuck with the statutory rate (currently £140.98). While mothers on maternity pay often benefit from their employer’s more generous package (enhanced maternity pay). 
  • Fear of the impact taking extended leave above the ‘traditional’ 2 weeks will have on one’s career. We need to move away from the fact that taking a break, be it maternity / paternity / career break does not mean a sudden loss of experience, skills or enthusiasm. It means that for a period of time one wants to allow their focus to change without work suffering.

Better Shared Parental Leave Uptake Equals…

We believe that better awareness will lead to better uptake and a whole host of other benefits to workers and organisations.

Better uptake could contribute towards:

  • Closing the gender pay gap. Improving SPL makes it more attractive and realistic for men. This means more women are able to continue in careers and pursue senior higher paid roles. If we want an equal society then we must allow fathers to have the same access to paternity leave that mothers have.
  • Better parental mental health. SPL can allow people to better manage family and work commitments, thus leading to better mental health. After all, those early days can be incredibly hard. The option to have both parents off at the same time could make all the difference to mental health.
  • Better recruitment and retention of talented employees. Attractive SPL packages, beyond the statutory pay will lead to attracting talent from a wider pool of possible recruits. It also means that employees are more likely to return and stay following maternity / paternity leave. Shared Parental Leave Campaign UK

What You Need To Know About Shared Parental Leave

  • You and your partner 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.
  • One can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between you.
  • Share the pay and leave in the first year after your child is born or placed with your family.
  • You can use SPL to take leave in blocks separated by periods of work. Or take it all in one go. 
  • Choose to be off work together or stagger the leave and pay.

Providing truly flexible employment options is a key part of the Industrial Strategy. The Industrial Strategy is the government’s long-term plan to build a Britain fit for the future by helping businesses create better, higher-paying jobs in every part of the UK. (Business Minister Andrew Griffiths).

Going One Step Further

Why not just have ‘Parental Leave’ with the same length of leave for both parents. Should parents have the same amount of statutory pay, regardless of which parent? The encouragement or better still enforcement that any enhanced pay is available regardless of which parent is taking the leave. We feel that Shared Parental Leave has the potential to add great value to flexible working initiatives. But does need some changes in order to be of value.

Stay tuned to see what our surveyed audience said! 

Categories
Dads Gender Pay Gap Shared Parental Leave

A Dads Share

Back in November 2014 my wife and I were overjoyed with the arrival of our daughter Beatrice. Being at home with her for those first two weeks was amazing and she was perfect in every way, but a month in to her life she was diagnosed with hip-dysplasia and we were told she would need surgery. After bringing her home she was made to wear a large, heavy & very awkward spica cast and the practicalities of this meant a simple thing like picking her up became too much for my Wife.

At the time my job had become dull and unfulfilling so I was more than happy for a change
of scenery. I took split paternity leave in May 2015 and would spend eight months off work and at home with Bea. The first few weeks it felt like a holiday as the sun was shining and the feelings of stress, monotony of the daily commute and rat-race dissipated. I found myself getting up with a smile on my face and sorting Bea’s breakfast, changing her nappy, dressing her and planning the day ahead. It all felt fresh and new and different but no doubt these feelings were born out of a craving for change. I did get some people (you know who you are) questioning my decision and giving what they saw as banter about how I was now a house husband (amongst other offensive labels) but I took it all in jest.

While I was finding the arrangement quite easy I knew my wife was struggling emotionally. She is one of the strongest willed people alive and she had always been determined to go back to work after having a baby but she felt like she was fighting society’s image of what mothers should be and her own instincts to care for our daughter.

As the weeks went by and I’d fallen in to good & bad routines. I started to get a bit defensive with continuing comments from (mostly) male friends, coupled with waves of bottled up anxiety about Bea’s condition. She would play on the living room floor by pulling herself around with her arms, dragging her cast behind. I was also feeling guilty by not being at work and earning money. Looking back, I was in a very bad place and I wish I’d opened up and found some help. I read this week that 28% of Men suffer from post-natal depression but all I could think when I read this statistic was what my late grandfather would have thought of men these days. My generation has had to re-mould the male image more than any other as we’ve advanced in to more gender fluid times.

When October rolled round and I had gone way past the six months originally agreed for split-paternity leave. My work couldn’t have been more helpful at the time as they were well aware of Bea’s needs and we’d agreed that I could return on a three-day basis. We worked out a schedule between family who we couldn’t be more thankful for and I returned to work.

Going back was strange and the biggest annoyance was having to constantly explain my situation to anyone asking where I’d been. A group email hadn’t gone round before I’d left as I wasn’t the one with the womb. I got questions on whether or not we were going to have anymore kids which began to feel intrusive.

We did eventually decide to have another baby and Eliza came along in the September of 2016. As my wife’s employer couldn’t offer her flexible hours she decided to go it alone and I was back full-time. A few months in I was asked to go for a promotion within my dept. I had been with the company for 10 years but when it came down to the final decision they chose someone else and I still wonder if my taking SPL had anything to do with it.

Overall I think we’ve been lucky as since I started working for our websites I’ve heard terrible stories from women who’ve been moved sideways, demoted or let go simply for choosing to have children. There needs to be a total attitude shift in the way parents can work and the way mothers are treated by their employers. Technology allows us to work anywhere these days and everyone should be given the option to work flexibly.

By Liam Hamilton
Co-Founder @ Daddyjobs.co.uk