Sitting at my computer at the start of the work day on February 6th was simultaneously the most disapointing and demotivating start to a work day I have ever had - which probably says alot. I was missing out on one of the biggest events in HR and Payroll, and my wife and I were 6 days overdue. I was missing one party, and our baby was late for the other!
Conference at SD Worx is pretty unique in our industry. It’s certainly unique for an organisation with only seven hundred employees in the UK. At the 22nd annual conference on February 6th, we had over eight hundred delegates in attendance(!)... minus one. With an abundance of clients and prospects there, ranging from project inception through to the very final stages, it would have been a wonderful opportunity to catch up and connect people to the SD Worx network. Thankfully, I have some brilliant colleagues who are more than capable of doing that in my absence, but I still wanted to be there!
There’s an awkward period that happens towards the start of your paternity leave - somewhere between birth and close enough where travelling too far becomes a risk. The exact timeframe is personal to everyone, but for us, it was a week before the due date. No one ever talks about paternity leave and the delicate balance required by everyone involved. That’s what I want to talk about today, all things paternity!
Paternity leave was first introduced to the UK in 2003, and qualifying dads can take up to two weeks. I was surprised to see how recently P-leave was introduced to the UK, perhaps it’s the millennial in me, or maybe it’s something I’ve only thought about as it’s become relevant to me. Who knows! Either way, I’ve seen lots of individuals through multiple organisations go through the process, with varying degrees of support and “success”.
Once something becomes law, it’s easy for employers to become resentful of this new obligation, especially if there are financial or reputational ramifications. As someone who has not been through this process, it’s easy to be daunted by it, or at least somewhat nervous about asking for all the leave you need. Here are my tips to would be dads... and their employers!
It amazes me how much misinformation and hear say is out there about paternity leave (factor that in with all the pregnancy nonsense and you’re practically swimming in old wives tales). As a dad to be (D2B), I would encourage you to read your paternity policy and if required, seek advice from your manager - or HR! At SD Worx, our policies are held in the same place I get my payslip, so it was very easy to find.
As an employer, it’s critical to remember for a lot of first time D2Bs... we’re completely clueless. Managers and HR alike need to ensure they are avaible for support, but also to help plot out a roadmap. Yes this can be laid out clearly in a policy... but there’s nothing like a call, right?
During pregnancy, you’ll be asked to go to antinatel classes, scans, midwife appointments... all sorts! Make sure you, as the D2B are working with your manager to ensure you’re not leaving your team short staffed, and that you’re taking them into account. Don’t feel guilty though! You’re most likely entitled to some time for exactly these sorts of events, make sure you use them, and make sure you don’t feel guilty.
Just remember though if you’re providing a service to clients (which I do), then you need to make sure they’re not being let down. They’re people too, and they’re most likely paying you for a service. In most cases, like all things in life, communication is the key.
This is a bit of advice for the employer. Companies, in this day and age that aren’t providing P2B with a clear schedule of what they’re being paid, blows my mind. Finances are probably the most talked about subject in the lead up to a baby, especially as maternity leave gets closer and closer. Not having a clear schedule of payments, and relying on P2Bs to interpret archaic looking forms is not a great way to engage and support us!
The thing I’ve found most surprising is how flexible both parties have to be! As the farther to a late baby, I’d have been really frustrated if I’d been forced to take paternity leave on my due date. Paternity leave was designed to enable D2Bs to bond with their new baby, and support the mother through a life changing (albeit amazing) event. I feel very fortunate that my manager, and the company are flexible enough to work with me. That’s how I know they don’t just talk the talk, they walk it too. It’s one of the many reasons I love working at SD Worx.
This flexbility can be pretty challenging for managers to manage. Getting it right however, is so reassuring as a D2B during a time when we could feel guilty and unsupported. My manager actually took time to let me know that I was making the right decision, and that meant a lot.
To close out, I would like to give one final shout out to any D2Bs, and say you’re not alone! There is an abundance of groups out there to help and support. On top of that if, like me, you have a supportive manager and company, they can be an invaluable resource. I’d urge you to speak to them, and your HR team. Also find other dads! You are almost guarenteed to NOT be the first person going down this road at your place of work, put a shout out! Get some tips!
Paternity leave is a fairly recent change to working practice, and I feel very fortunate to be able to benefit from it. I don’t feel guilty, I don’t feel like I’m taking advantage, I feel very well supported and excited to have our baby!
Now, does anyone know a good raspberry tea blend?