Shared Parental Leave in Lockdown
At the Sanger Institute we offer a range of policies and schemes to support working parents and enable a better work-life balance for all employees.
Shared parental leave was introduced in the UK in April 2015. Below Ian Whitmore shares his experience of shared parental leave in lockdown during the COVID pandemic in 2020.
“It’s been challenging, but I am privileged to have had the opportunity to spend time with my children at a very important time in their first few years of life.”
Ian Whitmore, Advanced Research Assistant, Wellcome Sanger Institute
Ian joined the Sanger Institute in 2010 as a Research Assistant in the Cancer, Ageing and Somatic Mutation Programme, left then came back in May 2018 to wok as a Advanced Research Assistant in the bespoke team with DNA pipelines.
He has recently come back to work after taking three months shared parental leave with his second child. It’s the first time he’s done this, as his previous employer only offered the standard two-week paternity leave.
Ian’s leave started in March 2020, just weeks before the UK went into lockdown. Plans of going to local baby/toddler groups were quickly cancelled. His wife returned to work for the NHS as a nurse. It wasn’t what Ian had in mind when he imagined being on parental leave. The experience was “both rewarding and challenging at the same time” says Ian.
Going for walks became the daily activity, and Ian was pleased when the parks opened up again. “It was nice to see members of my family again for support and adult company once lockdown eased,” he reflects.
Throughout his leave, Ian says he felt supported by Sanger Institute, including by his line manager and HR. His laptop was set up before going on leave as a way of keeping in touch. He was offered to be included in WhatsApp groups and zoom meetings during lockdown so that he could get all the latest and important information.
The campus closed all but essential functions and facilities on Friday 20 March. Ian’s parental leave ended in June, and he has had the opportunity to go back into the labs a couple of times but not full time following campus closure. Ian was still doing the majority of the childcare before September with his wife back at work and continued to be supported by the Sanger Institute.
Ian returned to the labs full time in September 2020. He’s adapted to the different ways of working to comply with the new COVID-secure rules.
Even though his shared parental leave wasn’t exactly what he had imagined, he proudly says that “it’s been challenging, but I am privileged to have had the opportunity to spend time with my children at a very important time in their first few years of life”.
Shared parental leave was introduced in the UK in April 2015. Parents can take a combined total of up to 50 weeks, which can be taken at the same time or a different time from their partner/other parent.
For more information about Shared Parental Leave please visit: https://workingfamilies.org.uk/articles/shared-parental-leave-sharing-leave-with-a-partner-or-splitting-up-leave/
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