Broad parental leave policies help families and organisations thrive

Jun 17, 2019

For most, figuring out parenting and your career is difficult. It can be even more so if you are an LGBT parent. Peter Keenan-Gavaghan explains how the support from his organisation enabled him and his husband to make the leap into parenthood while growing his career.

Balancing a career and a family is always a juggling act. However, when your family does not fit the traditional model, it can also prove to be a minefield for all concerned, especially at work. Societal expectations of parental roles, parental names and second glances are only a few of the factors that need to be thought about before LGBT people become parents.

Despite having made the decision to have children early in our relationship, it took my husband and I eight years before our son arrived into the world. With both of us being working professionals, the process of family planning started in the traditional way: how do we balance parenthood, careers and our relationship? We quickly realised that we also needed to consider society. In the end, some of it came down to practicalities, and some came down to our own values, preferences and external supports. 

Parental leave

One area we had to consider was managing early childcare. My firm gives enhanced paid parental leave regardless of gender and this played a big part in our decision that I would be the stay at home dad for the first seven months of our son's life, with my husband returning to work on a reduced work week.

Without the seven-month paid parental leave from my firm, our family would be much different position starting out and certainly disadvantaged compared to mums going on leave. It’s important that not only the people in an organisation are supportive to LGBT families, but that the support is reflected in the HR policies and procedures.

Creating a network

We always knew we would need to navigate the potential assumptions from colleagues and clients that there is a ‘mum’ at home. We quickly realised that if social assumptions were to change, we needed to be proud of our family, and not place each other back in the closet. Having same-sex parents is nothing new in Barclays. Indeed, when we were investigating how we would become parents, one of the first ports of call was Barclays LGBT network, Spectrum. There we got a greater understanding of fostering, adoption and surrogacy. The network also holds regular talks on ‘non-traditional' parenting to educate colleagues on how they can become parents and continue to build their career.

While nothing would have stopped my husband and me from having our son, the information and support gained from the LGBT network in my organisation eased the process for us (as much as to-be parents can be eased when planning for their first) and normalises families like ours to colleagues and clients. Before going on paternity leave, my team did the traditional baby gift presentation and I was invited to expectant parents’ events. This not only showed support but also demonstrated inclusivity.

Talent retention

What I have found since going back to work is that I have become more focused and flexible. Because Barclays gave me the information on parental leave, the precious first months with my son, and the flexibility to alter my working hours to the typical parent’s life without judgements or assumptions, they have retained a committed employee and have helped create a happy family.

Peter Keenan-Gavaghan is Vice President of Barclays Internal Audit – RFT & Functions Technology.