So what have I learned?
Publicity has its own timetable
1) I now understand, more clearly, why they say "never work with children or animals". Welcoming a lone journalist to our house when it's past the kids’ bed time, and then trying to get the little cherubs to either pose nicely for photographs or sit quietly while mum and dad are interviewed is definitely a challenge!
2) For family life to run smoothly, it's all about well-timed routines. So when a news agency suddenly sends me a text, while we are out on a family walk, saying that "a film crew are on their way to your house now", it throws the routine out the window and is a bit like hearing a fire alarm. Panic, run!
Shared Parental Leave is in its infancy
3) Shared Parental Leave is a good step in the right direction but, for many, it's still not very attractive financially. So far only a few companies seem to be offering dads Enhanced Shared Parental Leave Pay, and hats off to them, but for the rest of us it means that he'll only get £138.18 per week, and that allowance only lasts up to 39 weeks after the birth. In fact, many companies might not even offer the mum any Enhanced SPL Pay, even if they offer her Enhanced Maternity Leave Pay, so in those circumstances it won't make financial sense for the mum to trade in her Maternity Leave for SPL until her Enhanced Maternity Leave Pay ends.
4) There is currently a lot of negativity regarding Shared Parental Leave within some areas of society. For example, BBC News quoted a recent survey by the British Chamber of Commence which showed that 47% of businesses think the new regulations will have a negative impact on them, with only 11% thinking the impact will be positive. They go on to say that 60% of firms think more Paternity Leave will damage business. ITV News stated that "according to one poll many men don't actually want to take shared time off" and one survey “showed that up to 3/4 of men would shun the offer of parental leave for fear of losing money and career status". Not particularly encouraging.
I'm a great supporter of dads taking time off for their kids and this initial negativity is disappointing. What employers need to realise is the positive impact it will have on them. Yes, you'll be out for a few months (a short amount of time in the grand scheme of things) but once back, this will soon be forgotten and you're likely to make a more engaged and motivated employee.
Time for a New Year's resolution: if you're expecting a child next year, I would encourage you to seriously consider Shared Parental Leave. Taking time off has been great for my family and has also led to flexible working, and in turn a deeper personal commitment to both work and family.
Wishing you all great 2015!
N.B. This blog first appeared here: http://www.cityparents.co.uk/Blog/Cityfathers/202.htm on 5 January 2015