Ben Black, Director

Why Can't We Have Candid Parental Leave Conversations?

Ben Black, Director

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Regular work+family updates for
HR and diversity professionals.

Children + honesty = annoying

My children aren't angels, far from it. One of the times they failed to cover themselves in glory happened a few years ago on holiday in the middle of rural France.

Boy twin, aged 5, decided to sneak down to the kitchen at 10pm and steal a beer. He took it back to his room and gave it to girl twin. Girl twin decided it was a good idea to pass it onto baby sister, aged 2. Baby sister took a swig and decided the best thing to do with a nasty bottle of beer was smash it on the floor. Cue Spanish Inquisition and complete denial...

Eventually, I convinced them that honesty was the best policy and, if they were truthful, there would be no consequences. Unfortunately, that really did mean no consequences. My kids have got their heads round this game quite well and have developed a well-worn routine:

  1. Commit misdemeanour;
  2. Deny initially, then admit with a degree of contriteness;
  3. Escape scot-free.

It's quite annoying...

Frank parental leave conversations

But whilst it's annoying, I genuinely believe that honesty is the best policy.

When it comes to the whole maternity transition, life would be so much easier if we could have open, frank, and honest conversations. Can you ever imagine a scenario where a 35-year-old woman - or man for that matter - goes for an interview and is asked about their plans for children, and that being 'OK'? And by 'OK' I mean that:

  • The potential employer really does treat everyone the same;
  • They have amazing ways to help parents combine career and family successfully;
  • And the conversation they are trying to have is about all the support the employer has in place, just in case you land the job.

No, I can't either, but it's worth aiming for. It's actually the golden thread of our business - coaching people to have good conversations with themselves, their managers, and their partners. Then making sure there is some great practical support in place.

Is 'slowly but surely' enough?

Often the whole maternity transition is too wrapped up in emotion and potential litigation for these conversations to happen. Slowly but surely, however, the best employers are making sure these conversations happen. We would all like the progress to be quicker, but without a parent to promise "no consequences", slowly and surely is sadly as fast as we will go...

Ben Black

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Regular work+family updates for
HR and diversity professionals.