Kat Knocker is a senior founding member of the team at tails.com, the tailored dog food delivery service based in Richmond, South West London. Kat took shared parental leave alongside her partner Dave when their daughter Amelie was born in 2018. Here are her top reasons why all parents should consider taking shared parental leave.
It’s your legal right
Although shared parental leave is a legal right, only one per cent of eligible parents in the UK are actually using it according to online sources. For myself and Dave, using our entitlement to shared parental leave felt like a clear choice. We have always supported each other in building our careers, and shared parental leave felt like the best way to keep doing that as we embarked on parenthood. If we hadn't been able to share the load, it’d have been a difficult decision for us to have children...
Although I was the first person at tails.com to take shared parental leave, my team and the leadership team here were really supportive, and I think the best thing I did was to be really clear with what I planned to do - which meant we were in the best place to work out the best way for me, my family, my team and tails.com. I was a key part of shaping the role and hiring the person who covered me for the time I was off - and we had a good overlap for handover. Being the first to take the leave too did mean that I had the opportunity to help influence how Shared Parental Leave is treated at tails.com and also worked really closely with the People team to make sure the admin was done together, correctly - it was everyone’s first time! There was lots of helpful info online.
I actually received a promotion whilst I was pregnant - a time when disturbingly a lot of other women have found themselves being removed from important projects and relegated to the sidelines. My return to work full time after 5 months of leave was quite seamless - again, a combination of working with my colleagues, being clear on plans, and making the most of our flexible core hours policy.
You both get to experience the ‘firsts’
With shared parental leave, we’ve been so lucky to experience quality time with Amelie where we have both been able to see her first moments. During my time away from work I had her first smiles and rolls, Dave’s had her first tooth and first day at nursery. We also had an overlapping month where we travelled together with her to Australia, so again, we were both able to tackle this together and enjoy it as a team. It has been very special to us that we’ve both been able to see her grow and change every day.
Child care is not the responsibility of just one parent
There are many reasons why parents may choose not to take shared parental leave - including the gender pay gap, workplace attitudes and knowledge of shared parental leave and our biases too. We did have to save up to take our leave - and at times it’s been lonely for both of us as there are very few others doing the same. We’ve seen how parenting can easily feel one sided leaving one parent feeling out of their depth when left alone with their baby and the other parent feeling like they’re responsible for everything. Shared parental leave lets both parents learn and manage their child’s routine and bond with their baby during these key formative stages and also with each other as parents too. Even taking one or two weeks makes a huge difference in sharing the load as well as sharing the fun and firsts, too. For us, our hope is that it’s set us up with a really even and equal foundation as we head forwards into a life where we’re both back at work with a small child.
It encourages other couples to take the leap
Although I was the first at tails.com to take shared parental leave, I think my positive experience of it thanks to my employers and my partner means that I won’t be the last. I’m really proud of the changes I’ve helped to make at tails.com in particular, from making the admin easy with our People team to influencing our Paternity and Maternity pay packages (tails.com now pays equal enhancement for dads and mums on top of their statutory allowances).
As a senior member of the founding team at tails.com, it’s a great example to our whole team that they can take this vital time out to spend with their new family as they are entitled to by law, without worrying about it having a negative impact on their careers or how they're perceived. Hopefully the tide will continue to turn until all employers actively promote the rights of both parents to take part in the first year of childcare following birth.
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