Dan Bailey, Business Manager at Standard Chartered Bank, talks to me about his Shared Parental Leave #knowyouroptions
[Part of a series of interviews I’m conducting with other professionals taking Shared Parental Leave]
A few weeks ago, I caught up with Dan Bailey, Business Manager at Standard Chartered Bank, to talk about his experience of taking Shared Parental Leave.
I was really impressed that Standard Chartered is getting the culture around equality and parental leave right. For example, Dan talks about how supported he felt when making the decision to take SPL. I also really liked Dan’s recommendation for new Dads - essentially ensuring that you explore all the options and plan your leave from a work perspective so that you can fully relax and enjoy your time off as much as possible.
Standard Chartered also offers an excellent 6 months’ full enhanced pay (though the enhanced pay is currently pegged to the birth date); Dan took advantage of this. I liked that Dan had the self-awareness to realise that not everyone has this benefit and that every family’s individual situation around parental leave is unique.
Brief description of your family setup:
I’m married with two children: a son who has just turned three and a daughter who was one in October 2019. We live near Richmond in South West London.
Brief description of your job:
I’m a Business Manager at Standard Chartered Bank in Global Research. I'm responsible for facilitating business operations, which could include dealing with compliance, technology, HR or, for example, using new technology and business growth areas.
Brief description of your partner’s job and role:
She's a Client Account Manager at the law firm Clifford Chance.
How did you structure your Shared Parental Leave?
When my daughter was born, I took 6 months of SPL at the same time as my wife, who then took some further unpaid leave following that period.
I think we’re a good example that the key to success is flexibility - every family is different so employers should avoid a “one size fits all” approach to parental leave etc.
Did your employer provide enhanced pay for your Shared Parental Leave?
Yes - I received full pay for 26 weeks.
Did you feel that Shared Parental Leave was encouraged informally by your company?
Yes, I did. HR were really keen and supportive. Also, with everyone else that I spoke to, I never felt there was anything other than encouragement.
Had anyone else in your team/company taken SPL before you?
Yes. I knew some people had taken SPL. However, I might have been one of the first in the business to take the full six months, though I couldn’t say that for sure.
Were your colleagues supportive of your decision to take SPL?
I think there can be a stigma around taking SPL that, in fact, you place on yourself. However, every conversation I had with colleagues was very positive.
How was your return to work? Was it daunting?
I thought I might feel “rusty” or a bit out of touch with what was happening but it surprised me how quickly I felt part of the team again. Within about a week, I felt fine.
Have you inspired others to take SPL?
“Inspired” might be too strong a word. However, I did sit on a panel internally to share my experience of SPL for International Men's Day. I think it’s important to raise awareness of the options available to parents and I'm very keen to be a champion for SPL and to support it internally. It's still early days but Standard Chartered is making very good progress in this area and they provide clear support for new parents.
Are you proud of your company's SPL policy and do you talk positively about it to people outside your company?
When I was speaking to friends and family, it took a while for them to really understand how good an opportunity it was. I certainly appreciated the opportunity I was given and it demonstrated the bank’s very positive message around equality. So, yes, an element of pride and recognition that this opportunity is not something that is available to everyone.
If moving job, would a prospective different employers’ parental leave policy affect your decision about moving company?
If we were looking to have a third child it would, without doubt, be a factor.
Equally, however, Standard Chartered’s overall positive approach to these issues is something that I would look to be replicated elsewhere - not just around SPL but also around diversity and equality etc. If another employer didn’t have the same mind-set as Standard Chartered, it would definitely be a factor I would consider in my decision to move.
Does having a good SPL policy give you a better impression of a company?
Without doubt. Within Standard Chartered SPL is quite embedded now but when I speak to people at different organisations who weren’t able to do the same as me I really see the value of our policy.
Your SPL / fun stuff
What was a typical day like?
My wife had set up a very good routine on her maternity leave with our first child; then, when my daughter came along, I was obviously there as well. It was funny, the bigger challenge to the family dynamic we’d built up was not so much my daughter arriving but me!
For a little while it felt like my wife had become almost like my line manager as I was trying to fit in with the established routine. However, I also wanted to make my own mistakes and have my own space so there was a period of trying to find a rhythm that worked well for all of us. I think we came through that stage really well and found a routine that suited us.
On an average day, it would be breakfast and then we’d go to one of the stay-and-play baby clubs (or something similar) before having lunch together. In the afternoons (when we weren’t affected by bad weather) we’d try and get out and about.
There's also the hard work element of the leave as well: a lack of sleep, changing nappies, preparing meals and so forth. Again, my wife and I had to find our routine to make sure we were doing the tasks efficiently between us.
We also did something a bit different as my wife’s brother lives in Australia - so we went to visit. We thought we’d grin and bear a 24-hour flight with two kids under two to have a few weeks over there! There were challenges but also lovely afternoon walks, time on the beach and other great activities in the sun!
In terms of parenting, was there anything that you felt, as a Dad, you couldn't do? Or vice versa?
Overall I was quite confident but there were some things that I needed to develop a better sense of how to do, and that just took a bit of time. I’m happy changing nappies, doing meals/feeding, putting the kids to bed etc. but sometimes it was the speed and efficiency of doing those tasks that I needed to improve a little bit.
It was difficult moving from just seeing your kids largely at the weekends when you are able to focus on having fun with your family and not necessarily doing the day-to-day challenge of supporting your children grow up. When you’re on Shared Parental Leave - it’s a full time job - the fun parts are definitely there but you have to take it more seriously too.
After your SPL, did you feel more confident about your own childcare abilities, even given you took SPL with your second child?
I’m a fairly hands-on Dad so I was confident before Shared Parental Leave. Indeed, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to do it. But, yes, I did become a little bit more aware of how to do things more efficiently and so I did become slightly more confident, but not significantly more so.
Would you say SPL improved your bond with your children?
It’s interesting, I don't know if I can answer that yet.
I don’t feel that my daughter has a closer bond to me than my son, even though I spent more time at work when my son was born.
After returning to work following SPL, I have noticed some things slip back towards mum being more in the primary carer role (say, when the kids ask who they want to read the bedtime story etc.) but it’s a really interesting question as to whether me being part of that primary care team for the first six months has mitigated that in any way.
Did SPL improve your professional skills?
It put a lot of perspective on them, which was really important. “Perspective” was the one word I used a lot when I came back to work.
Parental leave is hard work and it can be repetitive and quite mundane at times. A lot happens every day and you don’t necessarily appreciate that when you’re having a normal day at work.
So, yes, the leave gave me a better perspective on what some other colleagues were doing and that helped in my professional life.
Can you see any reason, other than financial impact, why a dad shouldn't take Shared Parental Leave?
The answer I want to give is “no, finance permitting dads should do it” but I’m really conscious of and want to respect the fact that taking SPL is something that every couple will have to think about and decide for themselves whether it is the right thing to do.
You can’t say “if the finances are right, just do it”. Ultimately, every scenario is different and it’s got to be right for you and your family.
However, if it is something that can work for your family, I think it's an incredibly powerful thing to do.
What would your top tip be for new Dads?
I suppose the obvious things to say are “enjoy it” or “embrace it” etc. and I certainly loved every minute of it.
But I’d say take control over how you want to take your time off and it will work out better for you. I worked with my manager and helped interview to fill my role whilst I was off - that gave me enormous peace of mind and allowed me to go off and enjoy the leave.
If you have nerves around negative stigma etc. or you’re just unsure, be proactive and speak to HR so that you fully understand your options. Everyone I spoke to at Standard Chartered was very supportive and that helped me enormously in terms of being able to relax and maximise my time off.
What is the longest you've looked after your kid/s on your own?
My wife's been away for one night with her friends at a spa... so I took on bath and bedtime alone - which is a challenge with two kids! I'm trying to encourage my wife to have more nights away but we love our family unit, and she misses the kids when she goes away.
Worst childcare task/job?
I’m the type of person who likes to eat my lunch and get on with my day - but with two kids having lunch can sometimes be painfully long!
Favourite childcare task/job?
Good question… just being in my kids’ company or when I can just watch them having fun together. On holiday there was a lovely beach bar with a play area, we had dinner outside in the sun and just watched the kids playing together for a couple of hours.
Just watching the look on their faces when they play and they're happy; it’s such a great feeling to think that you’re creating a nice environment for them to grow up in.
Best nursery rhyme?
My son loves Wheels on the Bus to the point of distraction - the amount of videos I’ve seen of Wheels on the Bus…
My daughter has a little book she loves me reading to her called Clip Clop.
© Joe Young / www.dadonspl.co.uk