Shared Parental Leave really made coming back to work an easier experience

423 words, approx. 2.5 minutes to read

Ruth Kyle chose to split parental leave with her husband; here, she explains why it worked so well and encourages others to give it a go.

The government introduced Shared Parental Leave in April 2015, which lets parents share the time they take off to look after their newborn baby. With only two percent of parents taking up their offer, I want to share my story to show how positive the experience has been for me.

I wonder what holds people back from sharing parental leave? Does the gender pay gap mean families can’t afford dads taking time off? Is there pressure on mums to go it alone? Are both scared of being displaced in work? I’d hate for anyone to miss out simply because they didn’t know it was possible.

My story

When I was pregnant, my husband Oli and I chatted about what we imagined time off work with Rae, my now 19 month old daughter, would look like. There was a maximum of 12 months available, we both wanted to return to work, and there were two of us – so six months each was our first idea. In the end, I took seven months off, Oli took four, and overlapped for a month in the middle.

Our month off together happened at the right time. Rae became a nap-refuser, a status she has proudly clung to ever since, so it was a relief to muddle through as a team. Potentially there won’t be another time that we’ll have a whole month off work together as a family before retirement!

As well as the joy of a month off together, Shared Parental Leave made coming back to work a really positive experience for me. When I returned, I didn’t need to go through the turmoil of leaving Rae at a nursery for the first time. I could be confident Oli was on it and focus on getting my brain back into work.

The experience was a real test for Oli. He had to learn how to parent single-handedly. And it was a test for me too, in learning to let go. I had to leave the routines that Rae and I had created in her first seven months, and allow her and Oli to establish their own patterns and ways of doing things. This experience has shaped the equal way we parent today.

I’m really enjoying the balance of working and going home to Rae. Sometimes I lose the balance but, with Oli’s help (and a back pocket filled with an emergency ration of blueberry rice cakes), I’m grateful for the sense of ‘team’ that sharing parental leave has left us with.

Ruth Kyle
Chief of Staff

Empathy is good for Co-op

471 words approx. 3 minutes to read

We’re hosting a series of events focused on different cultures to celebrate both our similarities and differences.

Did you know that the benefits of building a workforce of diverse people and an inclusive culture are huge – from better financial performance and more innovative problem-solving to easier employee retention and greater appeal to customers.” 

The communities we serve are changing. I stepped up to become Chair of the Rise Network a few months ago so that I could be a part of making the Co-op ready for the future.

We live in a multicultural society, yet most of us spend the majority of our time with people who are just like us. Without perspectives from different backgrounds and cultures, our worldview is skewed as the representations we see in the media only offer, at best, a 2-dimensional view. Without a full picture, it’s difficult for us to envision the world as someone else may experience it.

Simply interacting with individuals who are different forces group members to prepare better, to anticipate alternative viewpoints and to expect that reaching consensus will take effort.”

A typical example of one way that cultural awareness makes us more able to serve our customers was given by a fellow colleague the other day. They facilitated some training with our Co-op Academies. At lunch, their chosen meal deal lunch of sandwiches, crisps and a drink was provided to the group. When a large portion of the students immediately turned over the bag of salt and Chardonnay vinegar crisps to ensure there was no alcohol, the colleague realised they’d overlooked a small but vital detail — as most of the students were Muslim and they don’t consume alcohol.

One of the main purposes of Rise is to create empathy and common understanding amongst colleagues of all cultures. To help with this, we’re hosting a series of events focused on different cultures to celebrate both our similarities and differences.

“Eighty-three per cent of employees are more likely to innovate – and are more than twice as engaged – in workplaces that are both diverse and inclusive.”

The first of these events is on Friday 23 November at Federation House from 4 – 8pm. It will focus on aspects of Afro-Caribbean culture and give the attendees the opportunity to network with colleagues from many different cultures in a social setting.

We invite you to come together to enjoy authentic Caribbean food, great music and learn about each other. Children are welcome, although they must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

Sign up to the event here

Diversity is good for customers, it’s good for communities and it’s good for business

Annette Joseph
Digital Delivery Manager and Chair of the Rise Network