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The Shared Parental League & Dad on SPL

Introducing Joe Young, Dad on SPL (Shared Parental Leave) and his Shared Parental League, putting some friendly competition into great parental leave policies.

Introducing Joe Young, Dad on SPL (Shared Parental Leave) and his Shared Parental League, putting some friendly competition into great parental leave policies.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Joe and his lovely daughter in the City. Joe is in the final months of shared parental leave from his role at a London law firm. The aim of our meeting? To collaborate on our shared vision of banishing the gender pay gap to the annals of history (such that when my son and his daughter are grown up they will wonder what the fuss was all about). Underpinning this vision is the need for organisations to adopt truly robust ‘Shared Parental Leave’ Policies. Ones that aim to support both parents (where there are two) to have the experience of being the primary caregiver for an extended period of time… on proper pay.

The good news? Many organisations are starting to do just that!

As well as being the primary care giver for the last several months of his daughter’s first year, Joe has been analysing and tracking the #sharedparentalleave policies of various organisations in his Shared Parental League on LinkedIn. You can check out the current leader board below:

Accurate as at 27 November 2019. Blue highlights denote new entries and the orange denotes a promotion for Linklaters who removed their ‘birthday peg’ and were therefore moved up the ranks in accordance with Joe’s methodology.

There has been a welcome increase of late in companies introducing enhanced SPL enhanced pay, over and above statutory SPL pay.

However, behind the fanfare with which these policies are being announced lies a number of flaws with some of these policies. These nasty flaws in your firm’s policy could seriously affect your ability to share leave with your partner.

Many of the flaws are because firms are “equalising” their SPL policies to their maternity leave policies. This sounds great, but in practice the “equalising” approach creates barriers to men accessing the full benefit of a firm’s SPL policy.

– Joe Young ‘Dad on SPL’

At the Juggling Act we are thrilled to see companies being highlighted in a positive way, for doing the ‘right things’ rather than shamed for not measuring up. It also provides a bit of friendly competition by encouraging others to join in.

You can follow Joe’s adventures and insights via his blog https://www.dadonspl.co.uk/ or follow him on Instagram @dadonspl

The Juggling Act Working Parents Programme is registering between now and the end of the year. The 2-day workshop portion of the programme will be on the 2nd & 3rd of April 2020. We will be running several in-house programmes for clients in between.

The April Programme is open to delegates (any current or expectant parent – bio or non-bio) from all organisations and sectors and takes place at the Century Club in Soho.

Juggling Act 2020: Parents in Leadership – Programme structure

Women, like men, only cheaper.

The days of industrial hours working and bums-in-seats mentality need to be put behind us all. This approach simply doesn’t fit with today’s working cultures or with how we live, parent and work. It’s time for some new approaches and fresh thinking. Here Claire Fry, Founding Partner of the Juggling Act, talks pay gaps, parenting and what can be done to address these crucial issues.

As we approach the second gender pay gap reporting deadline on the 4th of April, society continues to ask the question: why does there continue to be such a gap between male and female salaries and bonuses? How we pay (or don’t pay) working mothers is a big piece of the puzzle.

The history of pay gaps

First a little background. Gender Pay Gap Reporting came into force in April 2018. Employers with 250 or more employees are required by law to publish their figures comparing men and women’s average pay across the organisation. This legislation is in contrast to The Equal Pay Act, from 1970, which made it illegal to pay women lower rates than men for the same work. The Equal Pay Act is known informally as ‘equal pay, for equal work’.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting looks instead at the measure of the difference between men’s and women’s average earnings across an organisation or sector. It is expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. In other words, if most of your support staff are women and most of your leadership team is male, you’re going to have a big gender pay gap.

The part-time myth

In my consulting work through Pale Blue Coaching I work with organisations to help them close their gender pay gaps in a variety of ways. Now through our research for The Juggling Act, Lucy, Chris and I are seeing a continued theme: companies are pro-rating pay (and bonuses) for working mothers who are theoretically only working 3 or 4 days a week, but in fact the reality is very different. In her book, ‘Becoming’, the fabulous Michelle Obama describes the situation succinctly:

“What I didn’t realise-and this would also go into my file of things many of us learn too late – is that a part-time job, especially when it’s meant to be a scaled-down version of your previously full-time job, can be something of a trap. Or at least that’s how it played out for me. At work, I was still attending all the meetings I always had while also grappling with most of the same responsibilities. The only real difference was that I now made half my original salary and was trying to cram everything into a twenty-hour week”.

What I didn’t realise-and this would also go into my file of things many of us learn too late – is that a part-time job, especially when it’s meant to be a scaled-down version of your previously full-time job, can be something of a trap. Or at least that’s how it played out for me. At work, I was still attending all the meetings I always had while also grappling with most of the same responsibilities. The only real difference was that I now made half my original salary and was trying to cram everything into a twenty-hour week”

Michelle Obama, Becoming

Ending the pro-rating penalty

At the Juggling Act we want to see organisations ending the practice of pro-rating pay for working parents. In fact, for any employee who wants to spend slightly less time in the office. As long as the individual is delivering on stretch targets against a fully-scoped role, this will be a positive thing for all involved. So many mothers – and an increasing number of fathers – tell us how they technically work 4 out of 5 days, but that actually no one else is picking up the other elements of their role. It doesn’t get distributed to other team members. So where does it go?

Often, the answer is nowhere. It stays with you. It’s a huge negative contributor to the #genderpaygap as a result. Time and time again we hear about how working mothers are logging in every chance they get: on the weekends, when the kid(s) are in bed, when the person’s partner is around, or whenever they can snatch a moment (or several hours). It’s the female advertising exec going into the office on a Sunday (!) the fund manager-mother writing a client presentation well into the night, the HR director getting up before her toddler does to sneak in a few precious hours of email catch-up. It’s not doing the work itself – all parents know you just have to juggle as best you can with small children – it’s the not getting paid for it.

The days of industrial hours working and bums-in-seats mentality need to be put behind us all. It doesn’t fit with today’s working cultures or with how we live, parent and work. It’s time for some new approaches and fresh thinking. Anna Whitehouse’s fantastic #flexappeal campaign is a making huge in-roads to the kind of change that is needed, but getting paid for the work, however it is achieved, is the crucial next step. Child care costs a fortune, let’s stop short-changing the great employees we have, just because they happen to be parents.

#workingparents #getpaidforwhatyoudo #stopproratingpay 

Working Dads are taking (and enjoying) Shared Parental Leave, BUT the data doesn’t show it!

Bad news: read all about it!

“Why take-up of shared parental leave is so dismally low” proclaimed City AM at the end of November. ‘It was seen as weird’: why are so few men taking shared parental leave?’ said The Guardian’s October headline. ‘UK Named Among Least Family-friendly Countries in New Study’ warned The Independent in June this year.

Since April 2015 parents have been allowed to split up to fifty weeks of leave between them, with the 37 weeks of statutory maternity pay can be paid to either the mother or father. The intention behind this SPL deal is to improve diversity and close the woeful gender pay gap.

If we look at the data on shared leave taken through the government scheme, the picture is indeed grim. These articles continue with more bad news numbers: “When it comes to paternity leave, the UK ranked 28th in the list, offering fathers two weeks’ statutory paternity leave at £148.68 per week”, continued the Independent article. “Just 9,200 new parents took up shared leave in 2018 out of more than 900,000 who were eligible, the study found”.

Dismal news? Yes. True reflection of the situation? Not really.

Although the above is an accurate reflection of those taking up government SPL, it’s thankfully not a great reflection of what’s happening more broadly. Organisations are starting to write their own SPL policies and some of them are truly revolutionary. Many of them are tackling the biggest downfall of the government scheme: lack of paid leave.

Letting businesses lead the way on SPL

That bit above about £148.68 per week on government SPL, yeah that’s your sticking point. You don’t need to be a Londoner to find that amount of weekly government pay a little, um, limiting.

So why are we at The Juggling Act so optimistic amidst all this supposedly bad news? Simple. Because many organisations have now written and implemented their very own Shared Parental Leave policies. These policies are being advertised internally and externally. They are being celebrated in their company cultures, and men are being encouraged to take the leave and spend real time with their children. Two big things are happening as a result:

1. It’s helping women go back to work, with support in place at home and in the confidence that the child is well looked after (by the other parent). And there are no additional childcare costs.

2. The men are genuinely enjoying it and are becoming happier, more balanced and fulfilled fathers (and employees).

The Shared Parental League

Among those campaigning for fathers to take the chance to stay at home for the second six months of a child’s life is Joe Young of the blog Dad on SPL.

Joe says it is the only way forward for our society: “Gender equality in the workplace will only be achieved when men take an equal role as the primary caregiver to their children.

“It is very difficult for men to be the primary caregiver in the early months of a child’s life. The difference between being a ‘hands-on dad’ and being capable of being the ‘only-pair-of-hands dad’ and is why I focus on the second six months.”

Joe has compiled, and regularly updates, The Shared Parental League table (see below), highlighting companies leading the way in workplace gender equality. As of November 2019, the top performers were Standard Life Aberdeen, Mishcon de Reya, Linklaters, Lloyds of London, UBS, Aviva and Hammerson who all ranked as Champions League Qualifiers, thanks to their family-friendly policies of allowing either parent to take leave ON FULL PAY in months 7-12 in their child’s first year, regardless of their gender. It also applies to those who have adopted or had a child via surrogate.

What the guys say

Even in the notoriously testosterone-fueled worlds of finance and law, changes are gradually being made to encourage men to take more than the traditional fortnight.

Among the dads who have benefited from these forward-thinking policies are senior consultant John Darling who was one of the first to take advantage of the change in the law in 2015. His wife Becky took the first six months off to care for their son Arthur, then the couple switched roles for the rest of the year.

John explained: “I work for people from Sweden who said, ‘This is normal in Sweden – this is just what people do!’ Having six months off really put everything into perspective from a personal point of view.” Looking back, John says the experience made him a more confident dad: “I can’t see any blockers at all. I’d recommend it to all blokes. It’s important, it’s great fun, you will understand your child a lot more than if you hadn’t done it.

“There is probably anxiety around finances. The other thing that may play a part is the social stigmas that we still have. It certainly feels like some tasks are seen as a woman’s job or others as a man’s job. Quite frankly that attitude just needs to be knocked on the head.”

Andrew Woodhead, an associate at Knight Frank, echoed these thoughts after taking SPL when his wife returned to work seven months after the birth of their son.

“No one had taken SPL in my team,” Andrew recalled. “No one wants to feel that they are losing out when it’s not the norm in their company, and naturally might have concerns about promotions and progression but society has moved on and not taking the opportunity, should your family dynamic allow for it, is a no brainer.”

Read the full interviews on Joe Young’s blog here

Approaching a tipping point

When our son was born in 2017, my husband took 6 weeks on full pay from his banking job. That was huge at the time. In our NCT group of 10 expectant couples, only one other father took extended leave for 3 months (and it was unpaid). Today when I speak to friends – some of whom are now expecting a second child – it seems everyone is doing it.

For me, the following says it all: in a recent discussion of SPL plans with a fellow mum – who is expecting a second child in the new year – she quipped, “Now that he [her husband] has taken SPL once with our first kid, he wants to do it again, but this time for longer. The other day he joked that he wants to take the full 6 months after me – at least I hope he was joking – I said, forget it! 3 months maximum, I want to take the rest.”

When we are approaching a point where the financial and societal barriers to SPL are being removed such that parents are able to squabble over who gets to spend more time as primary care-giver, well, that’s progress in my book!

About The Juggling Act: for Parents in Leadership

The Juggling Act is a consulting agency. We work with organisations on how they can better support their working parent employees through cultural assessments and transformation. As part of this offer, we also run The Juggling Act leadership programme: a 4-part combination of coaching sessions and workshops, designed to empower parents re-entering the workplace, enhancing their focus and self-assurance as well as offering real-life practical exercises in negotiation and communication skills. 

Our mission is to make the world of work more successful and fulfilling for everyone: employers and employees, women and men, for generations to come.  

Register for the April 2020 Programme

The Juggling Act Working Parents Programme is registering now. The 2-day workshop portion of the programme will be on the 2nd & 3rd of April 2020. We will be running several in-house programmes for clients in between.

The April Programme is open to delegates (any current or expectant parent – bio or non-bio) from all organisations and sectors and takes place at the Century Club in Soho.

The Juggling Act: Working Parents Survey 2019

“After all, gender stereotypes are prisons for men too” – Stewart D. Friedman

The Juggling Act wants to understand more about women, men and the way they work and raise (or choose not to raise) families.

To this end we would love to hear your views in our 2019 Working Parents Survey. A new addition to this survey is a focus, not just on what women find challenging, but what might be blocking men as well. We ask the question: “What do you consider to be the biggest challenge for working men now?”

At The Juggling Act we are promoting a move away from a ‘zero sum game mentality’ and are instead teaching people how to negotiate towards a ‘win-win’ at work, in their communities and in their home lives.

The survey is completely anonymous and the only data questions relate to gender and location at a country level.

We are working towards a world where the employer and employee work together for mutual success and in acknowledgement of the needs of the (whole) person and those of the organisation itself.

Chris White and I will be sharing our own findings and the thematic results in our January talk for Women in eDiscovery as well as in our consulting with organisations.

The next Juggling Act Programme for Working Parents is registering now with 1:1 coaching sessions scheduled in the new year and the 2-day group leadership workshop on 2 & 3 April 2020.

Why the Juggling Act?

In 2017, shortly before their sons were born, both Claire and Lucy attended pre-natal classes with their spouses through Bump & Baby Club,
the leading independent provider of antenatal classes in London. Here they developed friendships with other working mothers. As everybody’s babies grew, the late-night whatsapp chats between them changed from conversations about feeding, burping and swaddling towards going back to work. Many of the parents shared the same conundrums:

  • Did they want to work flexibly or go back full time?
  • Could they transition slowly?
  • Would they be discriminated against or be pushed out for being parents, perhaps not able to offer the same unilateral focus to their work as they had previously?
  • And what about the exhaustion, the logistics and the guilt? 

Not a single person felt entirely confident about this next step. Some felt unsupported by their employers. Some were really excited about going back but were worried about the endless logistics.

It didn’t take long for Claire to realise she wanted to use her coaching and culture background to support these women, and the organisations they work for. She wanted the programme to help shift the culture more widely, to lead to higher quality conversations between employee and employer, conversations about how things could be better in the workplace (and at home) for both parties. Looking to partner with other coaches and trusted friends, people with complimentary skills and a different slant on things, she founded The Juggling Act with Lucy Fry and Chris White in May 2018.

Juggling Act Research

So, they knew work re-entry was proving challenging for them, their friends and their family members with children, but they wanted to know more. What were women really facing? What were their greatest challenges? To gain further insight and ensure The Juggling Act was targeting the real issues for women returning to work they ran a survey and received over 100 responses from all over the English-speaking world. Peoples’ challenges varied to some degree, but the key themes included:


It was a struggle to to find a new routine. The heartache of leaving my child when they are poorly, irritable, tired, all of the above. I feel bad leaving work late as I feel I need to rush home and collect my kid.

I want to be good at my job and good as a parent but I don’t have the time for both. I have to do a lot of work outside of work and I can’t. I don’t want to start working again at 9pm after I’ve eaten dinner because my child wouldn’t go to bed at 7pm.

Survey respondent
  • Feelings of guilt: about leaving kids, about working too much, about not working enough. There was guilt about enjoying work and guilt about not enjoying it.
  • Knocked confidence, low confidence, no confidence
  • Endless context-switching: from sometimes joyful, sometimes mind-numbing parenting to running meetings, writing papers, making presentations.


Guilt over leaving my baby is always in the back of my mind. I love my career but as there have been so many issues returning to work I feel it even more I think. I also think it’s getting in to a new routine – I really miss maternity leave… I had a strong group of mummy friends that I saw four times a week.

It’s weird not having that support network there in the same way. Regarding work specifically, I find the lack of hand over and communication about expectations really frustrating.

  • Fatigue! The tiredness, so much tiredness.
  • Many cases of women juggling everything at home and pursuing a career with not enough support from their partner, and those single mothers with no partner to support at all.
  • Bungled returns to work, with little to no prep or consideration from employers – and those who had not prepared or considered their own return to their organisation.
  • Not enough time to think or consider what they would need for themselves to make a success of their return to work
  • Struggles with boundaries, especially saying no.


I asked for part time hours, which I got, but my role never actually changed, so I ended up doing a full time job with part time hours/salary.

Survey respondent

The Juggling Act is a coaching and consultancy service that facilitates better communication and collaboration between employers and parents returning to work. It is a programme of coaching and workshops that provides the time and space, challenge and support to work through what matters most to women returning to work, amidst the circus that is their lives.

#backtoworkandbetterthanever#balhammums#southlondonmamas#parenthood#jugglejuggle#thejugglingact#jugglejuggletoilwithlesstrouble#2019goals#timeforyou#businesspartners#feministkilljoy#changeiscoming#heforshe#womenhelpingwomen#femaleleaders

Thinking creatively about parental leave… and returning to work!

From Reed Global

*or 90% of your salary, whichever is lower. 

That’s what that asterisk refers to that you can’t see in the image above (from @reedglobal). That’s right, £136.78/week or 90% of your salary…whichever is lower

Stauatory Leave vs. Organisational Policies.

Stauatory Maternity Leave (SML) and Shared Parental Leave (SPL) financial terms, as set by the government, are a complete joke. While it’s good that the UK has some provisions for statutory leave (in the strictest sense of ‘better than nothing’), the reality is that it’s actually on very poor terms indeed. What SML – and since April 2015 SPL – actually provide is a legal starting point in the minds of employers and employees. Something that says, ‘hey organisations! when someone becomes a parent in your company here’s your legal obligation to them. What you do or don’t do over and above that is your call’. That’s right it’s up to the organisations and their people to decide on the structure and terms of leave, flexible working and transition agreements. It’s a negotiation between parties with different aims, hopes and requirements to find a solution that works for all. The government has merely provided legal grounds. The rest is down to organisational culture. 

For maternity leave, paternity leave and shared parental leave, when you’re planning family and career you really need to think about what you can negotiate with your employer, or perhaps both of your employers (yours and your partner’s where possible), as to what your ideal leave/return/sharing/transition set-up would look like, and what cards you have to play on both sides.

All too often through our work at The Juggling Act programme we see women who are already working extremely hard, then having child(ren) and saying, “well is it really worth it for me to go back to work? Given that after child care costs my salary only brings in X”. The reality is that for those families where there are two parents in the picture, it should be a calculation based on household income, household needs and ideals and not be mentally debited from only the mother.


All too often through our work at The Juggling Act programme we see women who are already working extremely hard, then having child(ren) and saying, “well is it really worth it for me to go back to work? Given that after child care costs my salary only brings in X”. The reality is that for those families where there are two parents in the picture, it should be a calculation based on household income, household needs and ideals and not be mentally debited from only the mother.

Looking at the Whole Picture. 

There are lots of great reasons for looking at leave, parenting responsibilities, career development, promotion and pay as a whole household, and as part of long-term strategy for organisations, but here are a few. With more new mothers returning to the workforce than ever before and almost three-quarters of women with children in full- or part-time work, it’s unsurprising that there is huge talent and therefore opportunity, sitting within this ever-growing pool of working mothers. For the mothers themselves, looking at what’s left after childcare costs for only one salary ignores the opportunity cost of the longer term benefits of going back to work. In other words, yes it’s a nightmare juggling act at times, especially with very young children, but as time goes on and the kid(s) go to school and eventually leave home altogether, parents will have more and more time and energy to devote to work. Or put another way, when parents first go back to work after baby – that’s the hardest bit. The reality is that although it takes time, career prospects and time to devote to work will only increase and become easier. Having your hat in the ring now is what counts, it’s what gives you the chance to be around for opportunities later. For employers this means reaping the benefits of highly motivated, highly experienced, highly focused parents who are through the most challenging parts of juggling career and kids. You trusted them, you invested in them, they stuck with you. Everyone wins.

Structuring Leave Creatively.

 Because of the way the law is set out and then any company policies on top of that, it can be tempting to just go along with it. Or to assume it will be best to take as much time with as much pay as your organisation will allow. And in some cases this will absoutely make sense. For others they feel there is a sort of ‘feast or famine’ aspect to taking a whole year. One minute you’re having coffee with other mums, dads and babies, deeply immersed in all things little people, and the next you’re expected to dump them in nursery and entirely switch your focus back to work.

So what might a smart transition look like? For some (and I am one of them), 2 or 3 months completely off to heal and bond with baby, followed by a phased return, starting to take on a project or two and gradually build back up can be a great option. Whatever is best for you and your family, there are two key things to keep in mind here: 

1. Everything is a negotiation. 

This goes for both sides. A negotiation is not a bad thing, quite the opposite. Assume nothing, break away from traditional mindsets, put yourself in your employer’s shoes and think about what you can offer – or compromise on – to help them, so you can get the non-negotiables you and your family need too. There’s a win-win in there somewhere, if you are serious about building an incredible career at a pivotal time in your life, it is worth the effort to find it. 

2. Be creative.

The most successful leave, transition, return/flex structures we’ve seen have also been a little ‘out there’, there’s been some thinking outside the box from both sides – employer and employee – and it has resulted in an agreement that really suited both sides. Empathy is displayed. Listening happens. Possibility steps in. These are the conversations that have been open and honest, equal, non-defensive and results-driven. The respect the employee gains for the employer is huge, and vice-versa. It makes both sides want to do better and be better for the success of the organisation. And eventually, there will be no ‘sides’ at all. Just people. Just organisations. Trying to be better, more innovative, more successful, more customer-centric, more equal. That’s the Juggling Act vision. 

#sharedparentalleave #planningparentalleave #structuringparentalleave #winwin #considerbothsides #becreative #everythingisnegotiable #loveworkloveparenting #organisationaldevelopment