Adrian Dyer is one of a growing number of men to make it onto the Timewise Power Part Time list. He works reduced hours to help with childcare after taking additional paternity leave, but it’s not been perhaps as straightforward as it might be for women.
Three years ago he requested additional paternity leave after his daughter was born. He knew it would be a bit tricky to approach his boss since he was the first dad in his firm to request it so he took him out for a lunch of sausages and mash. He told him he was going to take four months off – two for APL, one month’s unpaid leave and one month of holiday. His boss’ first response was: “What do you think this will do to your career?”
Adrian replied that he hoped the company would see that he was doing the right thing for his family. At the time his wife was earning more than him so it made sense financially. He tried to put his boss at ease, saying that he would be back in no time. He shared his work out among his team. His deputy stepped up. In the end it was good for the whole team, he says. Moreover, his wife, who had taken 10 months off from her HR role, was more than ready to go back to work.
It was all very different from when his son was born in 2009, two years before additional paternity leave came in, and he only had two weeks paternity leave. “It didn’t feel fair to either of us,” says Adrian.
At the time he took APL, Adrian’s wife was a member of Citymothers and suggested he join Cityfathers. He did and has been blogging for them for a while as City Dad. Just before Shared Parental Leave came into effect earlier this year, the government contacted Cityparents, as Citymothers and Cityfathers now is, because they wanted a dad who was taking SPL to promote the legislation. Adrian appeared in a lot of media as a result.
He is happy SPL has come in, but is critical about the way it puts all the power in the hands of the mother and that dads still don’t have a right to more than the statutory two weeks off. He thinks that would make take-up more likely, as it does in Sweden, as would enhancing SPL.
“I think sharing leave is good for everyone. For women in the workplace, for dads being able to bond more with their children and help more at home and for our children. My son loved me picking him up from school when I was on APL. It’s not that I am better at it than my wife, but we do different things,” says Adrian.
He works as a trade manager for a Japanese shipping company in London which has been going since 1885 and so its model is fairly traditional, although he says the HR team is very proactive.
Tellingly, though, not one dad has taken APL or SPL since Adrian did. When he returned to work after taking APL, he asked for flexible working. He had enjoyed his time off with his children and didn’t want to work full time and not see them from Monday to Friday. Ideally he would have liked to work three days a week, but he knew that was not possible so he asked for four days with every Friday off. His boss agreed to him doing four and a half days on a six-month trial, but he could only take the Wednesday afternoon off. His pay was reduced by 10%.
Two years later he’s still doing that and admits he is essentially doing the same job as before in less time and for less pay. However, he says he is happier than if he was working full time. He comes into the office earlier as he doesn’t want to work in the evenings and says that makes commuting easier.
Although the flexibility is not much compared to, say his wife, who works three days a week, it is vital to Adrian. Nevertheless, he is still the only other dad in his company to work less than full-time hours. Some mums work part time. “There is more understanding if mothers ask to work flexibly,” he says, although he admits that their career progression has suffered. “They seem happier, though,” he adds wistfully. “I guess it’s what your priorities are, but it’s a shame that you have to choose. I’m sure companies with a happier workforce attract more talent and do better.”
There has been some small movement towards greater flexibility in his company after he reduced his hours. Since his company invited the Great Place to Work team into the office and flexible working was found to be the number one thing employees said would improve their working lives, the company has allowed some flexi hours. Employees can come in an hour early and leave an hour late or vice versa one day a week. This means Adrian can take his son to school on a Monday so he knows what is going on at his school and can interact with the other parents. He tries to encourage his team to do so too. “It’s baby steps,” he says. “Some people are scared to do it. They don’t want to be seen to be taking advantage. There is a big culture of presenteeism, but I don’t want to be on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t spend more time with my family.”
Ideally, Adrian would like to reduce his hours further. He helps his wife who has set up her own business and he has his blogging. He has no idea how he would go about negotiating that, though. “I feel I have used up my nine lives and can’t push for any more,” he says.