SFE YP Blog - Paternity Leave

Tom Casey is Head of Client Support, Scotland & Northern Ireland at Schroders Personal Wealth

I am writing this in the midst of paternity leave for our third child, I would like to say it’s now a familiar experience but you can never quite prepare yourself for the days/weeks that follow the amazing feeling of welcoming a child into the world and the blessings and challenges that brings. Balancing this with work is certainly one of the challenges.

Through this blog I hope to create an ongoing dialogue for working parents and those on their journey to become parents. This is for those excited and anxious about becoming parents but also those who have suffered a loss during pregnancy.  Around 1 in 5 pregnancies miscarry according to nhsinform.scot, even with such a high volume of pregnancies ending this way, it is not something that’s easy to broach or discuss, having the ability to talk to someone can make such a positive difference. Having experienced this, I we are comfortable and confident in talking about these matters, as challenging or potentially positive they may be.

There have been a number of changes since my previous parental leave in 2016 & 2017, a number of employers (including my own who now offer six weeks leave) are now providing greater periods of leave than the standard two weeks and the Covid pandemic has significantly changed ways of working. More flexibility in terms of  paternity leave is available including shared leave, extended period of leave and the option of unpaid leave, giving parents much greater control over time with family in the early days. This not only allows strong bonds to be built, but also greater support for partners in what can be a very challenging and difficult time. A McKinsey survey and report details the benefits new Father’s see in their relationships, careers and in supporting their family by taking the extended break.

Indeed, the report also highlights that a number of new parents do not take their full period of leave due to the perception this may have on their commitment to their career, which is something I have suffered with.  This isn’t to do with my concern of an impact on my career but I like being involved in work, knowing what’s happening and feeling in control. Managing a period of six weeks of leave, made me feel far more anxious and uncertain than it should have. Every person I spoke with about my paternity leave responded with how great it was to have six weeks off but it was never something I got that excited about. Why? I’m not really sure. I was looking forward to spending time with our newborn baby, my wife and two other children. At work, I trusted my team and those around me that my absence wouldn’t make a significant difference to our clients, colleagues or performance.  My employer, line manager and team could not have been more supportive of me taking leave. Perhaps it’s about control, perhaps I am sub-consciously more concerned about perception and impact on my career than I realise but on reflection; I enjoy my job, I like contributing and to feel like I’m playing my part. The lack of control and unusually long period away made me feels anxious and uncertain but having now taken the majority of my leave (with the rest to follow imminently), it has definitely been the right decision. Most importantly, for the benefit of my family but also to give opportunities to members of my team who have really stepped up to ensure performance was maintained – this has been a great learning curve for me in my career.

Reading through the above McKinsey report and specifically the benefits that comes with additional time-off  made me realise how fortunate I am to have such a great employee benefit.

Looking back and thinking what would I have done differently, I procrastinated on planning my paternity leave. This was partly due to the fact you don’t know when a baby will arrive and also aligning with school holidays for my other kids but also because of my reluctance to be away from work. If I was to give advice, I would make a decision in advance and get your time booked in and stick to it. This will allow you to plan more effectively, set your team up well and provide greater piece of mind for your time off.

I would encourage anyone reading this to make the most of the leave you have available no matter how long it is for your respective employer, as a number of people have said to me…you never get this time back. It may be obvious but trust your team and those around you and give yourself the headspace to spend the time you have with your family and newborn baby.

This is just my experience and I know this will differ for everyone, but will no doubt bring positives and challenges regardless and I think it’s important that we are comfortable discussing these topics. You can read more at the Scottish government site here. If anyone reading this would like to chat, please do reach out directly.