Rob Carmichael left his senior job in banking in 2014 to look after his eldest daughter and to enable his wife to continue her career. He joked with family and friends that he had retired.
After 18 months with his daughter, though, the family’s circumstances changed. His wife fell pregnant with their second daughter Charlotte and wanted to reduce her hours. Just as he was considering returning to work, he came across Lloyds Banking Group’s returnship programme on Facebook and applied at the last hour on the last day. “It was very fortuitous,” he says. A year after applying he is back at work as Lloyds’ Relationship Director. Not only is the job on a similar level to the one he left three years earlier, but he can do it on a part-time basis. The support he has received and the general culture at Lloyds Banking Group, which was named 2017 Overall Top Employer in the Workingmums.co.uk’s Top Employer Awards, were crucial to his return, he says.
Rob headed RBS’ corporate banking team in Indonesia until his wife became pregnant. The couple decided to come back to the UK and Rob was able to help resettle the family and support his wife through her last months of pregnancy. The couple’s daughter Sophie was born in February 2015. When Rob’s wife went back to work he was the main carer. Asked if anything surprised him about being a stay-at-home dad he says he didn’t realise how much fun it would be. He loved having time with his daughter and says he was able to form a strong bond with her. He also picked up a lot of time management and other useful transferable skills which he thinks employers should acknowledge more. “I was guilty before I became a dad of not recognising the significant effort and skills you need to keep little people happy, to run a household and still be on speaking terms with your partner!” he says.
Rob says his father is his role model and that he told him that he had been able to spend more time with his daughter in her first six months than he had been able to spend with Rob in his first six years. “He has been a wonderful dad and a great example. He’s a hero of mine and he would have given his right arm to have had the experience I have had,” says Rob. “It is definitely the best job I have ever done. I had a ball.”
Rob didn’t know about returner programmes before he applied to the Lloyds Banking Group one. “I was blown away by the whole experience,” he says. “It totally matched Lloyds’ collaborative and supportive culture.” He went on an assessment day in April and the programme started in June. While most of his colleagues were placed in a role that was expected to lead to a full-time position after the four-month programme, Rob was told there was no role that exactly matched his skills so he would be dropped into a team as a kind of “minister without portfolio” until a role became free.
While most of the 35 returners in his cohort were women, there were a handful of men. They had a host of different reasons among his cohort for taking a career break, from looking after elderly relatives to caring for very young or older children. Many had been out of the workplace for several years, including one woman who had been out for 17 years who described how her daughter was astonished when her mum listed all the senior roles she had done before she took time out. Rob says the programme helped cement his own beliefs in his ability and gave him an instant network which helped him settle into his new job. His cohort has a Whatsapp alumni group which still meets up. Most of the cohort are now working at Lloyds.
“The programme made a massive difference. It would have been difficult to get back to work on this level with a cv gap without it,” says Rob. He was clear from the beginning that he wanted to do a reduced week. He now works three days in the office and one day from home. “That kind of agility is embedded in the culture of Lloyds Banking Group,” he said.
Rob says he and his wife, who also works a four-day week, have the flexibility to spend time with their two daughters while advancing their careers and are able to share family responsibilities equally.
Rob says: “No matter what happens in my life the 18 months that I had with my daughter was the most precious time I have had the pleasure to enjoy. The support I have received from Lloyds to return to my career and to work in a way that gives me time for my daughters has been transformative for my family.”
*Rob’s experience is featured in Workingmums.co.uk’s latest Best Practice Report which provides an in-depth look at what the most progressive companies are doing with regard to gender diversity and flexible working.