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Why Im taking Shared Parental Leave

Why I’m taking Shared Parental Leave

My wife gave birth to a baby girl on 11 May, which is hugely exciting. 

We’ve decided I should not just take two weeks of paternity leave, but also another eight weeks of Shared Parental Leave. 

So, why have I decided to do this?

Firstly, because it’s an incredibly precious time that I want to share with my family. I started a new, high-pressured job when our first daughter was just three weeks old, and I feel I missed out on bonding with her as a result. 

My wife informs me that this is the last time we’ll be doing this (!) so I want to make the most of every minute, and also support her during what can be an exhausting and challenging time. 

I am very excited about the new addition to our family – and about ensuring the nappies, the sleep-deprivation, as well as the joy, are equally shared.

Secondly, this is important because we’ll never achieve gender equality unless men do their fair share of bringing up children, it’s as simple as that.

Currently, only three percent of British men take Shared Parental Leave and half the general public are still unaware the option exists, according to the Government. That simply isn’t good enough. 

We have a good policy at Plan, whereas a lot of employers are not so progressive, but it’s also down to the way Shared Parental Leave itself has been structured. 

In Norway, Sweden and Iceland, where they have a ‘daddy quota’ – a portion of shared leave for partners that is there on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis – up to 90% of dads take it up. 

I hope that the Government will look again at implementing something similar here which would help to normalise something that’s currently seen as exceptional.

A man carries a young child

Like the gender pay gap, it is another marker illustrating we are a long way from gender equality. And, of course, the two are linked.

Wrongly, too often women’s careers are damaged because they take time out to bring up children while their partners continue to work full-time, climbing the ladder faster as a result, or because they’re discriminated against by their employer for having children.

My wife Sophie has spent the last eight years as Chief Executive of a UK education charity. We often say she tackles poverty at home, while my job is doing it abroad. 

I am fully committed to sharing our parenting responsibilities so both of us can pursue fulfilling careers – and be great parents.

I want Eliza, my four-year-old daughter, our second daughter, and every girl around the world to grow up living in a far more gender equal world than we have today. 

By being an example both at home and externally, I hope I can play a small part in showing what men need to do to ensure that happens.

Follow Simon on Twitter @sibishop

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