In a recent interview with the CII, Matt Harrison, Syndicate Exposure Manager for Hiscox London Market talked about his three-month extended paternity leave, being a father to 19-month-old Ted, and his return to work.
Matt, on the decision to take paternity leave
My wife's a journalist and we had always discussed me taking the last month of parental leave, making it a nice handover for her to know she wasn't leaving Ted with a stranger when she returned to work for the first time. However my wife was headhunted and things changed.
Throughout the pregnancy I looked into taking extended paternity leave - the law has since changed to provide even more rights for Dads. I spoke to HR and my boss, and together we figured out how it could work before I talked to the wider stakeholders. I made sure everyone knew and was comfortable with what I was planning to do.
On how people at work responded to his taking extended paternity leave
People took it really well. Many of the people I work with have a family, so I actually got a lot of comments from people who were jealous of the extended time I was going to be spending with my son at such a critical age. I think there were some concerns at first, but once we talked through how it was going to work and who was going to stand in for me and where, everyone was on board.
On his time off
The first week was total chaos - I think I lost half a stone. I didn't know what to do, running after him making sure he was fed, nappy changed and that he was happy. I felt I had no time for myself but it was still an incredible time. I was lucky in terms of timing that I had three months off over summer so we were out and about every day, seeing things in the park, we even went swimming. I can honestly say it was the best three months of my life. It was so much fun and so rewarding to have that time.
It has definitely given me a different perspective. My wife works late so I have to do nursery pick ups - historically I would not describe myself as a morning person, however now if I am not in work by 8.00am I feel like I'm late but I need to be out the door at 5.30pm to pick him up otherwise he doesn't get out of nursery.
On his return to work
In my first week back I was thrown straight back into the deep end and it felt like I had never been away. In terms of managing things and managing the team I needed to get everyone comfortable with me being back. Within two weeks it felt like I had never been away!
On what can be done to encourage more men to take paternity leave
Hopefully interviews like this help. It's sharing the stories. It was an incredible time for me, and my career has certainly not been limited by it. If anything it continues, as I see it, to go from strength to strength. Sharing those success stories, to me, is the way of encouraging it.
I think people worry about what they can do, and if they are able to do it or worry that it will have a knock on effect on their career. Demystifying this to me seems like the most sensible way of encouraging it.
My personal view is if you do a good job in your role and if you take time off, no matter what you do, within two or three months people have completely forgotten you did it. While some people worry about parental leave being career limiting, I don't think it is.
A lot of people understand the importance of family, so I think most people are either jealous or think you're doing a great thing. People might be scared to do it, but I couldn't recommend it more strongly.
Watch the video in its entirety on the CII website (external link).