Sharing my maternity leave secured me a 10k pay rise

Can you tell me a bit about you and your work life so far?

I (F) am 32 years old. After going to university I got an entry level job in manufacturing and have worked my way up to middle management over the last 10 years. I had my first child in June 2023 after I had been working for an employer for around 4 years, with a reasonably salary, a good work life balance and flexible working. The role I have now is as a Compliance Manager for a manufacturer, and my annual salary is £44,000.

How did you decide to split responsibilities for the baby?

When we decided to have a baby we wanted everything to be as equal as possible whilst still giving our baby what we thought was the best start by breastfeeding. So I (mom) took 5 months maternity leave to try to exclusively BF.

After the first 5 months I ended my maternity leave and we have been sharing the remaining 7 month allowance equally between us at a 50:50 ratio. We alternate 1 week at work and 1 week on the shared parental leave .

What have been the emotional and financial benefits of sharing parental leave?

The main emotional benefit we've experienced is having the father creating a strong bond with the baby while he's still really young, and spending as much time as possible with him.

Financially, me being out of the work market for less time in total means I am able to continue paying into my pensions and my private savings. I basically still have full autonomy over my own finances and I don't bear the entirety of the risk and financial detriments that come with having a child.

Neither of us earned significantly more than the other, but my positive story is that in doing SPL, I not only remained in the workplace, but I was actually promoted less than 5 months after giving birth. I went up a grade, became a line manager and increased salary by around £10k per annum and am now eligible for a bonus. This categorically would not have happened if I had been on full time maternity leave for 12 months.

Our son has had full time care from both his parents for the first 12 months of his life and has developed very strong bonds with both sets of his grandparents. Meanwhile both of us have remained employed, earning full time wage for hours worked, are present for trainings, briefings, networking opportunities, and are viable, realistic candidates for promotions.

How do you feel about the decision?

I’m so grateful that my partner was open to this more progressive way of sharing parental leave and childcare responsibilities. He has an amazing bond with our son. We empathise with each other so much better than when he was working full time and I wasn’t. And I feel like my career is exactly where it deserves to be.

What does the future hold, any plans, worries or hopes?

My hope is that we’ve started as we mean to go on, and will continue to share leave and childcare responsibilities going forward as well as balancing and supporting each other with our own careers.

Do you have any advice for those where you were?

Everyone who is expecting a child but is concerned about the motherhood penalty should look into shared parental leave and whether it might work for their families! It’s been in statute since 2015 that employers have to give at least 3 blocks of leave, but so many people don’t know it exists and it is still vastly under-utilised.

We also need to normalise dads/secondary parents sharing leave right from the start, so mothers’ careers stop suffering as a result of being the only ones biologically able to continue the human race!