Men As Change Agents Series: Chris Tayler
Chris Tayler, Maintenance and Asset Integrity Engineer and new father, reflects on his decision to take Shared Parental Leave for the AXIS Network's Men As Change Agents series.
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) has only been available since April 2015 in the UK so knowledge of how it works in the run up to the birth of our first child in June 2019 was quite patchy but, thanks to a supportive employer and a relatively clear policy document I have arranged to have a month of SPL when our daughter is five months old and a second month of SPL when she is nine months old.
There have been some expressions of surprise within the office when people heard about my plans – SPL is still not widely adopted, in fact some studies suggest that uptake is as low as 2% of new fathers , although I’ve already had a few discussions with prospective new fathers about how it could work for them. Which begs the question; when the benefits of SPL for fathers are so clear, why is the uptake so low?
This engagement, in my view, is what is required – SPL needs to be made more visible and this will drive the cultural change to make it acceptable for men to routinely take parental leave. This needs to be driven from the top of the business but all line managers should be conversant in what is available and encouraging uptake.
One of the key issues is that SPL can be perceived as a ‘holiday’ – I don’t think this is the case; when both parents are on Parental Leave it should obviously lighten the load for the mother while providing a chance for both parents to bond with the infant. We are planning to visit family in Australia for three weeks of my first period of SPL which is something that would have been very difficult to achieve using regular annual leave.
For my second month of leave my wife will be returning to work so I will be the primary caregiver and do the introduction to nursery. While I’m sure there will be some amazing moments in those weeks, I know there will be hard times and tears too.
I intend to attend some parent and child classes during this time which may also bring challenges. I’ve been to baby massage and rhythm kids classes with my wife but am yet to attend anything other than ‘men’s groups’ on my own – I’m hopeful that the mums will welcome me but still a little anxious about going along for the first time. By this time our daughter will be nine months old so I’m very much looking forward to the chance to get to know her more.
I’m also going to be on SPL when our daughter starts nursery which will ensure that my wife can return to work without having to worry about dropping off and picking up. This also means that I’ll be on call if there are any meltdowns during the transition. Going forward we are yet to agree how these responsibilities will be shared but both our offices are nearby to the nursery so we will take it in turns to minimise the impact on our respective working days.
I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to take this time away from work to spend with my daughter, it’s something that I’m a keen advocate for and will continue to promote within my company and within the Oil & Gas industry in general. I think this is particularly important given how long we expect to work for – I’m very much mid‐career just now (as most first‐time parents are) and I believe SPL will provide long‐term benefits for myself, my family and my company. And who knows, my continuing professional development may even benefit from enhanced time management and multi‐tasking skills as I juggle all the activities involved in looking after an infant!
Chris Tayler, new father and Maintenance and Asset Integrity Engineer.
 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new‐share‐the‐joy‐campaign‐promotes‐shared‐parental‐leave‐rights‐for‐parents – Accessed October 2019.
For more information on Men as Change Agents, The AXIS Network recommend the Women’s Business Council’s report: