Watch our paternity and shared parental leave as allyship event

Seminar / 08 March 2023

Senior property professionals recently came together to explore why many fathers in our industry are still not taking advantage of the opportunity to take paternity and shared parental leave. 

The event was introduced by Jackie Newstead – a Partner at Hogan Lovells and a member of our Policy and Campaigns Committee (PCC), which proposed this topic for discussion – and Sue Brown, our Managing Director.

Hogan Lovells kindly hosted the event, which was open to all of our members, at their premises in central London.

The discussion was chaired by EG Editor Samantha McClary, with the panel comprised of representatives of REB member organisations:

  • Melanie Collett - Head of Asset Management, Aviva Investors
  • Michael Meadows - Head of Planning and Public Affairs, British Land
  • Kirsty Wilman - Executive Director, Business Management, Federated Hermes Ltd and REB Non-Executive Director
  • Martina Malone - Managing Director, Global Head of Capital Raising, Prologis and REB PCC member

The main theme of the discussion was how real estate can do more to persuade fathers of the benefits of supporting their partners and colleagues who are mothers with the act of taking paternity and shared parental leave and how employers and senior leaders can make their workplaces fairer and more inclusive by encouraging fathers to take extended time off during the early months of their child’s life.

Michael talked about his own experiences of sharing parental leave with his wife when they had their two sons and how he had the support of his colleagues at British Land during his time away from work, as British Land’s policy is well established, with over half of eligible fathers taking shared parental leave since 2019. He also spoke about the many benefits sharing parental leave had for his family and the flexibility it provided to make choices that worked for them.

One of the things that me and my wife talked about is that we can both say to our sons that we took time out to look after them.

Michael Meadows

Michael suggested that one barrier to fathers taking an extended period of parental leave is not knowing what, if any, cover might be available, whereas mothers (and their line managers) know to expect this for maternity leave. There is a fear of letting the side down.

Kirsty spoke about how she shared parental leave with her husband when the initiative was first introduced in the UK and how he initially received a mixed response to being away from work for four months to spend time with his family.

The really interesting thing is [my husband] works in a team of around 30 people and almost all of the men who have had children since have done shared parental leave – it took one person to make it acceptable and visible.

Kirsty Wilman

Kirsty added that there was still a cultural shift required, as men could still face stigma from others thinking they would harm their career if they were away from work for months. However, in the context of a 40-year career, this attitude should be consigned to the past. She also stated her belief that the quickest way to achieve that cultural change would be equality across the board in terms of policies.

Melanie expressed how pleased she is that so many men at Aviva are comfortable taking advantage of its parental leave policies and the empathy they feel when they return to work, which is borne out by the amount of time fathers taking for paternity leave increasing and the amount of time mothers taking for maternity decreasing in the company in recent years.

Where Aviva has got it right is that we are partnering with an outside provider to provide 24/7 support for both the person coming back to work and also for the manager.

Melanie Collett

Melanie also spoke about how employers being more adaptable about offering part-time roles and job shares when parents return from parental leave would help normalise fathers returning in non-full-time roles, as mothers are more likely to do. She also expressed her view that employers need to be more flexible in terms of when parents must take their leave. 

Martina talked about the role senior leaders in companies had in “changing the world a little bit” by encouraging fathers to choose to prioritise their family in the early months of their child’s life, especially as their partners and colleagues who are mothers do not have that choice, and also about the importance of role models and normalising extended paternity and shared parental leave.

I’ve been in the real estate industry for 30 years and was one of the very few women when I started out. It’s a much more diverse place now and we want to make sure it is an even more diverse place when our children enter the workforce.

Martina Malone

The panel also took audience questions on issues including what is market leading in terms of parental policies; the barrier of loss of pay for fathers, especially when their remuneration is higher than their partners; the challenges of generous policies for SMEs; how high childcare costs can hinder mothers in particular in returning to work after parental leave; the stigma of leaving work early to pick up children from school; and whether companies should push policies through the potential financial benefits for parents.

This event took place on Wednesday 8th February 2023. We are thankful to Hogan Lovells for hosting it, Samantha for her brilliant guidance of the discussion and to our speakers for sharing their personal experiences and professional insights. We are also grateful to our audience members for attending the event and contributing to the conversation.