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A few months in your child’s first year will give you so much

“NatWest allows me to prioritise my family, which is a huge thing for me.” London–based Niro Nirmalan, Head of Digital Transformation for Retail Banking, shares his experience of taking leave to care for his young family while his partner returned to work. As a father of two daughters, Isla and Serena, Niro hadn’t taken Shared Parental Leave (SPL) first time round. But, with his wife Shalomi running a busy bridal make up business, second time round, the family faced some big decisions.

A case of need

At first though, they didn’t know SPL was an option. “It honestly wasn”t something that I was considering,” Niro says. “We were going to have our second child and my wife because she runs her own business, she needed to get back to work ASAP. This left us in a very tricky situation as to what to do with childcare. I also wanted to spend time with my little one which I didn’t get to with my eldest. So, we started looking at options, because we didn’t really want to send her off to nursery at such a young age. And that”s when we came across Shared Parental Leave. We started looking into the details of it and the rules were a bit complex. But, we did a lot of research and felt that we met the criteria and we looked at what NatWest offered and it felt like something that I could go for.”

Breaking the news

Having decided SPL was an avenue worth exploring, Niro considered how to raise it with his line manager. “I didn’t know anyone else at NatWest who had taken SPL,” he recalls. “So, there was a worry in my head as to ‘How do I approach this with my manager Angela? But, at the end of the day, the most important thing for me was making sure my child had that support when my wife went back to work. So, it was a no-brainer, I had to do it.”

Thankfully for Niro and his family, he had an overwhelmingly positive response from Angela and others at NatWest Group. “When I spoke to my boss Angela and HR Business Partner Kirsty Logan, they were hugely supportive. They were both empathetic to my situation and committed to ensuring my team were supported whilst I was away.”

As a senior leader with a sizable team, Niro’s thoughts them turned to letting them know too. “It’s not something that’s common, it’s not something that many people are aware of,” he says. “A father being away for a number of months because they’ve had a child. Those two months that I spent with my second child have been completely transformative to me personally.”

“So it was important for me to be able to share my news openly with my team, so that they understood that SPL was an option for all of us and one that I was taking because; NatWest allows me to prioritise my family, which is a huge thing for me; we’ve got supportive leaders who will back you if you want to go on this journey, which Angela really did for me; and me going away didn’t mean everything just falling apart.”

Like speaking to his line manager, despite worrying about speaking to his team beforehand, Niro was impressed with their response. “I think the team also saw it as a positive that their leader would come out and say he was prioritising his family by taking SPL. It felt more real to them – it wasn’t just talk, I was a role model for them, putting things into action.”


Having meticulously planned cover at work, Niro embarked on two months of SPL when his wife went back to running her business. “I didn’t need to worry about work at all. From a wellbeing perspective, that was really powerful to be able to just focus on my family. Those two months that I spent with my second child have been completely transformative to me personally,” he says. “I’ve built a much stronger bond with my second child right from the start. Even now she engages with me, she connects with me a lot more, because I was there pretty much 24/7 with her when she was really young. So for me, it’s been such a valuable experience. My wife Shalomi was also able to benefit by getting back into her work. She was always concerned and worried about what would happen. She didn’t have the flexibility with her job as weddings don’t stop while you’re on maternity leave. So I think it was really helpful that I was able to support her getting back into her business when she wanted to.”

Niro even set about digitally capturing the many memories of that precious time. “Going out every day with the kids and doing fun activities was great. I set up my own Tik Tok account @dadstory to film as many memories as I could in those months. Even with my eldest, because I would drop her off at nursery and spend time with her after nursery and do all of those activities which I wouldn’t have got to do with her either if I hadn’t taken SPL.”

Niro also appreciated the ability to be ‘in the room’ with his children 100% of the time. “With SPL, I could switch off from work completely because someone else was stepping up into my role and managing things for me while I was away. So I didn’t need to worry about work at all. From a wellbeing perspective, that was really powerful to be able to just focus on my family.”

Return to work

Much like finishing up for SPL, Niro’s return to work was exceptionally smooth thanks to good planning on the part of all parties. “The process for coming back was really smooth. With SPL, you have certain days that you use to catch up and keep in touch with the business. The week I was back, I was able to have the meetings I wanted to catch up and I had a full download from the team. Because we had a good plan in place, which the team executed while I was away, things ran smoothly, which is always a good thing to come back to.”

Partner leave

Although Niro will always appreciate having had the opportunity to take SPL, he acknowledges its limitations. “When I came back after the two months, I felt completely refreshed. SPL does help, but, for me, it’s rules are complex and, for a lot of people, it doesn’t go far enough. The reason I was able to take SPL was because my wife was sacrificing her maternity leave.”

On that basis, he feels the bank’s new partner leave policies will make a huge difference. “I think partner leave coming in will make it much simpler and much more appealing to a lot more people. It’s very important that we keep talking about equality at work and I think partner leave will really help level the playing field and give everyone equal opportunities as partner’s take on more responsibilities. There may be some people who will be worried about how taking this leave will affect their career. But kids grow up really quickly and for me personally I didn’t want to regret not spending more time with Serena as a baby.”

“The bond that I’ve built with her and which continues even now shows how this precious time can be hugely transformative, and I would highly recommend it.”

Find out how we’re helping our colleagues spend more time with their loved ones

Learn more about our Partner Leave programme