As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my husband and I opted for shared parental leave rather than the traditional 12 months maternity leave on offer in the UK. I went on maternity leave in May last year until December and then my husband took over from the start of this year until May.
In this post I want to go a little bit more into why we chose this for our family, how we set it up and some of the perks and challenges along the way.
Why did we opt for shared parental leave?
- Ultimately, the main reason was because I earn more than my husband. We did some calculations in the early stages of my pregnancy and in order to comfortably pay our bills and continue to save towards our dream of owning our own home I would need to go back to work sooner.
- My husband wanted to be a hands-on father to our son. This arrangement wouldn’t work unless both parents are 100% on board.
How it works
Both parents need to have been at their job for at least 26 weeks before applying. Along with the usual paperwork you need to complete for maternity leave, I had to complete a form confirming that I would be ending my maternity leave early in order to begin Shared Parental Leave. Once you opt to end maternity leave, your decision is final, so you need to be absolutely sure you want to do this!
Once you have indicated you will be ending your maternity leave, you need to decide how you are going to take your Shared Parental Leave. You basically have 50 weeks less any maternity leave taken and you can either take your leave in turns or at the same time. You don’t need to decide this right away but you do need to give your employer at least 8 weeks notice.
How has it been going so far?
Just over one month in, I’d say it’s going pretty well. I have quite a supportive employer and they have allowed me to work from home occasionally. My husband is doing a great job and is loving watching our son learn and grow right before his eyes. I miss baby during the day but I make the most of our evenings and weekends together.
One of the things I was worried about was perhaps being questioned why I picked my career over my child (not true!) or my husband having trouble fitting in at our local playgroups and activities but the reality could not be further from the truth. Everyone has been very supportive and there are even a few fathers at the playgroup. The only downside has been a lot of the mum friends I made on maternity leave are still off work and prefer to meet on weekdays so I don’t catch up with them but I have enough friends with children that I don’t feel like my son or I am missing out.
What about when SPL ends?
We are still discussing options once my husband goes back to work in May. Childcare in London is expensive and childcare for babies under 18 months is even more expensive. There’s no other way to describe it so it is going to take a hit on our finances. My husband is looking into applying for flexible working at his company so we won’t need to pay for 5 days a week childcare. We have been viewing childminders and nurseries in the area trying to find that golden balance of quality and affordability and we think we’ve found a few good options.
Update (May 2018): Reflecting on our experience of Shared Parental Leave
Ultimately, you know your family best and what will work best with childcare however after experiencing it, although a bit complicated to set up at the beginning, we would highly recommend considering Shared Parental Leave.
For more information about Shared Parental Leave in the UK, take a look at the ACAS website