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Paternity Leave: Why Neil Hopkinson Combatted Stigma and Utilized Parental Leave

As an HR Total Rewards Partner, Neil Hopkinson was fortunate to have an understanding of SAP’s paternity leave policy and the paternity leave legislation in the UK. He took paternity leave with his now two and four-year-old daughters for two weeks immediately after their births thanks to SAP’s policy. He also took advantage of the UK’s shared parental leave policy and was able to take an additional month off when his daughters were about six months old.

In the UK, shared parental leave guarantees mothers two weeks off following birth, and then offers an additional 50 weeks of leave that can be shared between parents depending on what works for each of them. SAP enhances this policy by offering up to six months of this on full pay.

“I think to be successful in your job you need to be successful in your personal life, and the only way you can be successful as a parent is by spending time with your children”

While Neil and many of his colleagues were excited for him, Neil believes we have inroads to make against biases regarding men taking time to spend with their children. He finds that the UK’s parental leave policy is still skewed towards mothers being caregivers while fathers work. Although, he also noted his colleagues were as supportive as possible and encouraged him to take time off, saying they would happily cover his responsibilities so he could have this important time with his family.

Neil knew what was best for him and his family, and as a member of HR he knew the legality of the situation. Neil admits, “I am really lucky because I know the policies and I know the legislation. But I think if you don’t know the policies, you are at a disadvantage because if your manager says you can’t take paternity or parental leave, then you might just accept that as the answer.”

Neil was the first SAP UK employee to use the UK’s shared parental leave program and thinks much of the bias surrounding paternity leave stems from legislation. The UK’s policy is one such piece of legislation which is skewed towards driving an imbalance of parental leave and the maintenance of stereotypical gender roles.

The policy grants a total number of weeks to be used by both parents combined, not individually. This puts parents in a difficult situation as both understandably want to spend equal time with their children, but as Neil points out, “I could only take shared parental leave if my wife reduced the length of her maternity leave. Figuring out who gets what time off can be quite difficult.”

Like many parents, he mentioned how much he cherishes his time off and  went on to say, “I think to be successful in your job you need to be successful in your personal life, and the only way you can be successful as a parent is by spending time with your children. So any policy that tells you to take time off and spend it with your children should be used, and it made a huge difference to me personally. It is enormously helpful for a healthy work-life balance.”

The positive effects of paternity leave are not just for fathers, but for mothers as well. Neil noticed his paternity leave benefiting his wife as they shared child-caring responsibilities and he said, “Being a parent is a hard job for anybody, especially with your first new-born. Sharing child-caring responsibilities makes things easier for both parents.”

 

As part of our EDGE action plan, the Global Diversity and Inclusion Office is launching numerous campaigns to create awareness and change behavior that benefits both men and women. A recent Deloitte survey found 57% of men said taking parental leave would be perceived as a lack of commitment to their careers but a wealth of research shows men who take parental leave are more active and engaged fathers with stronger family relationships, lower divorce rates, and more successful partners. Parental leave is also associated with overall improved mental/physical health and well-being for new mothers and new fathers. SAP’s six weeks of paid shared parental leave takes us one step closer to gender equality as parents share child-caring responsibilities more equally and mothers, fathers, and SAP see the benefits with happier and more productive employees.

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