International Men’s Day is on 19 November. Its theme this year is “Men leading by example”, and it aims to celebrate positive role models: “the value men bring to the world, their families and communities”.
People can be role models in different ways, of course – as professionals, as teachers or mentors, as parents, as friends, as activists… the list goes on. One way, in the context of the 21st century workplace, is by being an active, parental leave-sharing father; and by fighting for the right for people of all genders to do the same. And that’s exactly what Joe Young, a commercial litigation Associate at Pinsent Masons, has chosen to do.
Just over a year ago, Joe became a father for the first time. He and his partner had already decided to share their parental leave entitlement equally between them. They had made great efforts to help their respective employers update and improve their parental leave policies, to ensure that they were appropriate for modern families: for example, it’s no longer necessarily a woman who takes the majority of the leave or indeed who takes leave at a specific time after the birth.
When their baby arrived, Joe set out to become a hands-on father from day one, knowing that when his time came, he would be his daughter’s primary carer while his partner resumed her legal career.
He also started a blog. In “Dad on SPL” he began writing about his experiences as a new father, and his thoughts on the availability and quality of shared parental leave (SPL) provisions and their impact in the workplace. His blog includes interviews with other parents about their experiences of shared parental leave.
On 19 April 2019, Joe wrote this in his blog:
Off we go!
My out of office now begins:
“I am on Shared Parental Leave until around the end of October 2019.”
As of last Friday – and for the next six months – I’m MC’s primary caregiver!
To celebrate this daunting fact, my day kicked off with a monumental hangover as work had given me a very lovely send off. Wouldn’t it be amazing if a tradition emerged whereby SPL Dads about to embark on their leave came to expect their colleagues to celebrate it with them.
The number of male colleagues genuinely interested, supportive (and some even a bit jealous) was really touching.
Interestingly, alongside his blog posts, Joe compiles a “Shared Parental League” table highlighting some of the best SPL performers in the UK, comparing criteria such as the availability of pay from months 7-12 and whether or not leave is “pegged” to the baby’s birth date. (The “Birthday Peg”, as Joe calls it, makes it less feasible for men to take leave at the time when they are more likely to be able to be a primary care-giver.) He does not shy away from discussing the steps that need to be taken to level the playing field:
Gender equality in the work place, he writes, will only be achieved when men take an equal role as the PRIMARY care giver to their children.
This type of data, this type of campaigning, is exactly what is needed to remind organisations what they should be doing if they want to excel as recruiters and employers. It can also open people’s eyes to the type of working life they could aspire to, one that allows them to enjoy – REALLY enjoy – being parents as well as professionals.
Joe’s blog is well worth a read and we hope it inspires IP Inclusive supporters to look at their own parental leave policies in a new light. In that sense, he is indeed the kind of positive role model that we should be celebrating on International Men’s Day.
Our thanks to Joe for sharing his ideas at our 11 November 2019 Women in IP event on “How to navigate a non-linear career”, as well as for his input into this post. We hope to see him at other IP Inclusive events in the future.