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Stories from partner leave

Posted by Jon Meyrick, 4 months ago

4 min read

In January 2023, we did something big and bold. Something we’re still very proud of. We introduced a completely inclusive take on partner leave.

There are differences to the amount of leave you get in different parts of the world depending on local cultural norms, but the essence is the same. Whatever your or your partner’s gender or sexuality, or whether the child’s arrival is a result of natural birth, surrogate birth, or adoption, we treat it the same way. By giving you a proper period of leave to adjust and welcome them into your home. In Great Britain, for example, that’s up to 52 weeks leave with 24 of those weeks being fully paid.

A little over a year later, and plenty of our colleagues have had the chance to spend more time bonding with their new arrivals. So we spoke to a few of our UK-based colleagues to find out what it meant to them.

Too good to be true?

‘My partner and I had already been thinking about how I could do shared leave,’ remembers Customer Service and Operations Adviser Ollie Long. ‘So when I read about partner leave it felt too good to be true.’

Ollie had already had experience of the bad old days with the birth of their previous child, and saw the advantages straight away. ‘With Cody recovering from a C-section, the standard two weeks just wouldn’t have felt enough. The recovery can take time and you aren’t allowed to drive during the first six weeks. So from a practical perspective, I was able to be around to support in all areas of family life like getting everyone ready in the mornings and doing school runs as well.’

James Crozier, Head of Business Transformation Change and Implementation in our Commercial and Institutional business [pictured above with family], can also compare to the way things used to be. ‘When our daughter Ada was born in 2021, the standard two weeks paid leave felt like I couldn’t play the part I wanted to as a dad in the early days, feeling like I wasn’t able to pull my weight and relying on a flurry of daily WhatsApp messages to stay up to date. On the other hand, when Osh [new son Oisín] arrived, being part of everything, every day in the first six months was just awesome. It really helped us bond.’

And while James hasn’t had as much bonding time in the early months with Ada, she didn’t miss out this time. ‘It was arguably even more beneficial for my relationship with Ada. At just under two, she was developing and learning fast. Together as a family of four it gave us the ability to be unplanned together. When you’re both working everything becomes quite rushed and scheduled. So, we allowed ourselves to slow the pace of life a little, leaving space to take things in, and that had such an impact on our family.’

Making the first time count

You don’t have to have experience of heading back to work too soon after the birth of a previous child to appreciate how special those months are, though. ‘Nothing really prepares you for the arrival of your first born’, says Credit Analyst Jamal Thomas, who welcomed little Sofia with his partner Emma. ‘But for me the real benefit of partner leave was in all the little things – being there for the moments I wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to pick up on. Watching her at sensory classes, seeing how she reacts to different sounds, that funny moment when she first noticed her hands ... It’s amazing to think about how she’s grown and changed. I was there for it all.’

And for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultant Liam Fogerty it meant the chance to shape the part he wanted to have in daughter Niamh’s life. ‘Nine months of pregnancy gives you time to think about the kind of parents you want to be. I want to be really hands-on. I want my daughter to see me as a comfort, an emotional support, whereas that isn’t traditionally the role dads are seen to have.

Career vs caring

One important way the policy makes a difference is by shrinking the gap in time men and women have traditionally had off when having a new child. Over time, it may help to further balance childcare responsibilities between couples.

And our fathers couldn’t have been happier with the change. For James, it a was a reflective experience that he thinks will change the way we approaches his work. ‘I joined the bank through our graduate programme and since then it’s always been a case of achieving something and quickly looking for the next thing,’ he says. ‘This was the first time that I wasn’t doing that. It was a strange feeling, but experiencing it gave me a level of understanding I didn’t have before. As a people leader that’s definitely advantageous as I support others when they need to take time away – for maternity leave, partner leave, carers leave, etc.’

For others, it’s a simple case of priorities. As Jamal says, ‘from a career perspective, opportunities always come and go, the right ones will always come around. But from a family perspective it’s time you’ll never get back so embrace it. You’ll never regret the time spent with your child”.

And that same sentiment was echoed almost exactly by Ollie. ‘Six months in your career? Nothing major changes. But six months with your baby? It’s time you won’t ever get again. It's irreplaceable.’

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