First in a series of case studies celebrating Dads who have taken an extended parental leave we interviewed Dion Palin, Finance Manager at Lendlease for his unique perspective on being a stay at home dad and then working flexibly with the work-life balance demands of managing a successful career.
Dion is a Brisbane-based working dad – married and father to two sons. At the birth of his first son 2 ½ years ago he took advantage of his employer’s parental leave scheme experiencing all the milestones and challenges of a parent and baby’s first year of life. Following the arrival of another son 4 months ago, Dion now tries to balance career and parental responsibilities by working 4 days per week. Every Tuesday he can now be found changing nappies, at swimming lesson, at the park with his toddler or honing his negotiating skills around afternoon-nap time.
Dion’s Parental Leave Story
When it came time for Dion and his wife to consider care options for their son, Nicolas, as she transitioned back to her busy practice as a self-employed GP, rather than go down the day care route, Dion took the opportunity to step in as the primary carer and take leave from his role at Lendlease. The supportive Paid Parental Leave policy and the desire to keep their son at home for the first year made it a simple and straightforward choice for the couple – Dion would stay home and be the primary carer for 12 months after the birth of their son.
“For the first 12 months, we didn’t want to put him in daycare.” That was the catalyst which led Dion Palin to make use of his company Lendlease’s generous parental leave policy, to take 12 months off after the birth of his son. It was a financial decision that worked for the couple, with Dion’s wife having gradually transitioned back to work as a self-employed GP work after seven weeks following the birth.
“It was the best solution for our situation. Through my employment at Lendlease I had access to paid and unpaid parental leave. As my wife was self-employed she didn’t have the same opportunity. So, given that we wanted our son to stay at home, this had to be the way it was going to work.”
That’s not to suggest that it was easy. Yet Dion found it incredibly enjoyable and rewarding. “Being a part of the changes and milestones as my son grew up in that first year was really fantastic. It was nice to have a break from work in that respect, to get the full benefit out of that family time and do something different.”
Using Lendlease’s Keeping In Touch (KIT) days in the lead up to his return to work meant Dion was able to spend one day in the office each week during that 10-week period, to help with the transition. “We also decided that I was going to spend a day at home so I could keep doing spending time with Nicolas and keep the bond. “That in itself, just having four days at work and three, in a sense, at home has been a better balance than working five days and just having a weekend.”
Convincing management wasn’t a problem, with the company’s policies set in stone and a helpful supportive manager. “I always have to manage expectations and have regular discussions with my boss, keeping up to date on progress”.
“You sometimes do a bit of extra work to meet deadlines but all in all it’s working out pretty well. That’s partly because of the company and partly because of my manager.”
The biggest challenge Dion found was balancing work and home life, a struggle most parents would identify with. Having attended a Parents At Work workshop in Brisbane a few months ago, Dion came away with several insights, one of which was how to manage the concern around not advancing as much as he was capable.
“But you can’t be too critical of yourself. This is where I’m putting my priorities and that’s alright. I can focus small now and think big when my son’s a few years older and gets to school age – then there will be time to focus on career. We have to be satisfied with ourselves in the meantime.”
Now an advocate for dads taking parental leave, Dion encourages anyone to do it if they wish. “It’s just so beneficial. If they dads want to work less, then do that too.
“It’s a personal choice but if we have the ability to do it, if we have choices open to us – and if we want to use it – we should.”
About Lendlease’s Parental Leave Policy
“At Lendlease we know it’s challenging to be a parent and we work to support our parents through each stage of this important part of life. Lendlease provides 18 weeks’ paid parental leave as well as 34 weeks’ unpaid leave for the primary carer and two weeks leave for the secondary carer.”
“In addition, we have flexible working arrangements, purchased leave and wellbeing leave and assist financially to assist with the cost of childcare and dependents as well as parenting education workshops. We work closely with Parents At Work to ensure our Lendlease parents feel fully supported before, during and after parental leave.”
Gina De George, Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Lendlease