Fraser Ramsay talks about the once in a lifetime opportunity to take six months of parental leave due to Aviva’s award-winning policy and how he has returned to work with renewed energy and commitment.
In the week that Finland announces plans to equalise parental leave for mums and dads, we speak to insurance firm Aviva which is leading the way in equalising parental leave policies from an employer perspective.
Aviva say they want to fine tune and embed their award-winning parental leave policy. Perhaps their employees have some ideas to improve it. “How do you improve something that can’t be beat?” laughs Fraser Ramsay. He took six months off last year and he raves about the experience. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I’m fully aware how amazing it was to be given that opportunity.”
Fraser is a technical claims manager in the company’s Perth office. He had not long been promoted to that role when his partner became pregnant with the couple’s second child.
“I was a little reluctant to go on leave,” he remembers. “I really enjoyed the job, but I was worried about what might happen if they backfilled it with someone who turned out to be better than me! But the more I spoke to people in the company the more they said I should take the leave, it’s too good an opportunity to miss.
“I spoke to my manager and she was supportive, she made it so easy. The process was perfect, I couldn’t have asked for more from the company.”
With such a long chunk of leave available Fraser was able to start his leave three weeks before the baby was due. That allowed him to look after his then four-year old daughter Cassie and take the pressure off his heavily pregnant partner.
When son Cole arrived toward the end of March he was in hospital for a week with some minor chest problems. “If I’d only had two weeks of paternity leave I only would’ve had days remaining after we brought him home before I’d have had to go back to work,” explains Fraser.
But having six months off meant he could give his daughter plenty of attention while friends and relatives cooed over the newborn. And it allowed him to do both the boring stuff like changing nappies but also get involved in the emotional hard work, giving his partner a break from a crying baby and working together to figure out how to stop Cole crying.
He has praise again for his manager for the way she dealt with his absence. “She kept in touch while I was on leave. She didn’t hassle me, but she didn’t forget about me either,” he says.
After Cassie was born Fraser returned to work four days a week. After his six months of parental leave he returned full time while his partner saw out her maternity leave, then he switched to condensed hours over four days again.
That flexibility speaks to the culture at Aviva which Fraser says he feels and appreciates. “You’re aware of the values,” he says. “They offer free physio and free fruit, but these aren’t just gimmicks. They really are invested in your health and they care about their employees.”
And Fraser reckons all that makes him a better employee. “I’ve been here about 15 years now,” he explains. “Of course, I always give my best, but you do get a level of fatigue after that time. I’ve come back energised, more motivated and more focused.”