Chris Pryke-Hendy - Shared Parental Leave
Chris is a Sustainable Development Projects Officer in the Sustainability and Space department.
“In previous generations childcare has been the Mum’s responsibility and earning money the Dad’s. This is changing, but it’s still difficult for a Dad to play an equal role in their baby’s first year.” Chris has been working at Nottingham Trent University for six years and feels that his role in sustainability both matters to the University and enables him to make a personal difference. He knows that the University values flexibility and, because of this, Chris applied to take shared paternity leave.
More than anything else... it’s important that we can share the load.
Chris initially took Nottingham Trent University’s standard three weeks’ paternity leave when his son was born, which was great, but only seeing his newborn son for a short time in the morning and evening once he’d returned to work was tough. He decided to apply for shared parental leave, meaning that Chris could use some of his wife’s maternity leave to take an additional six weeks when his son was six months old. “Advance planning was important.” Chris gave his department four months’ notice to enable them to prepare. Where possible he planned projects with his Line Manager around the six weeks’ leave and created a handover document for the department.
“I feel very grateful to my Line Manager, the Department and the University for enabling this to happen. It gave me the chance to do more as a father and take some of the tasks off my wife for the time we were on leave together. We did some important baby things like weaning in those extra weeks, which allowed me to have much more of an active role.”
Being a hands-on father is deeply important to Chris, but he did find that some people didn’t especially understand why he was taking shared parental leave.
It’s a positive thing that Dads want to play a bigger part in their baby’s first year and something which should be encouraged, but there is some way to go in changing peoples’ perceptions of what a ‘Dad’ is and the traditional ideas of gender roles in relationships certainly need to be challenged further.
As well as meaning Chris had a more involved role with their son, the shared parental leave also meant that his wife could have more contact with her employer than she otherwise would have. “We wanted to make sure that Ceri was able to keep in touch with her work during maternity leave. She loves her job and she's keen to maintain her career progress. Thanks to our flexibility she has been able to do just that, she's even going back to work after maternity leave with a promotion.”
Parental leave flexibility has helped Chris to be the kind of active Dad that he wants to be. “Most new dads I know want to spend as much time with their families as possible, especially during the first weeks and months. If all employers were as supportive as NTU then it would go a long way towards helping families get off to the very best start."