Next in a series of case studies celebrating dads who have taken an extended parental leave we interview Sean Glover, Deputy head of Government Affairs at Westpac for his perspective on balancing his caring responsibilities with a busy career.
Sean is a Sydney-based working dad – married and a father to two sons. When his eldest son, now 7, was born, he took three months of parental leave, with his employer’s willingness to help and make things work. When his second son was born three years ago, Sean not only undertook parental leave, he took it one step further with long service leave and a career break, all of which spanned 15 months. He now balances working three days a week at Westpac with a business he and his wife bought.
Sean’s Parental Leave Story
When Sean initially took three months of parental leave to care for his first son Tom, he viewed it more as an extended break. He’d been fortunate enough to step into a different role at Westpac upon his return and with Tom being a “terrific baby” Sean felt like it had been easy.
“I kind of reveled in it because it was such a terrific time. I felt like we had a really strong bond… being there for everything as opposed to weekends or having a day here or there. It was so much fun. I loved it.”
On the second occasion, with a significantly longer period of time spent away from the company combining paid parental leave, long service leave and an extended career break, self-doubt crept in.
Whilst taking a short time off to care for a baby is seen as understandable Sean says (he was met with plenty of positive comments from fellow male colleagues) what was harder to explain, even justify to others, was why he’d chosen to take an extended career break. “I was going to be off for the better part of 15 months. I wasn’t expecting my role to be held open for me and I wouldn’t ask them to,” he said, adding that he had no expectations. “I decided that I was more than happy to run the gauntlet in 15 months and see what was available when I was ready to return.” It was a risk worth taking that paid off for Sean.
The key, Sean explained, was staying connected to his manager, with a quick chat every now and then to see how things were going with more frequent return discussions as the end of his career break drew near.
Sean notes that with an organisation the size of Westpac where agile working has become the norm, there is plenty of opportunity to move around and work flexibly if you embrace it. He felt that commitment to the company was mirrored in terms of their loyalty. “There’s a willingness to help and make these things work. It’s never struck me as being something particularly unusual.” Sean acknowledges that he’s been very fortunate. “I’ve only been with Westpac but when I ask, ‘isn’t that the way everyone does it?’ the answer is ‘clearly not!’”
When negotiating his return, Sean was clear that he could only do three days and was open to what roles in Communication Westpac could offer him. “It didn’t have to be exactly what I was doing previously. It was being realistic to what I could commit to.” Sean added that there was a lot of doubt on his part around never having done part time work before, but he was upfront about his fears. “My commitment was that I would flag if it wasn’t working from my side but also be very honest if I felt like I wasn’t contributing to the organisation.”
Sean doesn’t believe his career has been negatively impacted by the caring choices he has made to take parental leave and he would like to encourage other dads who’d like the opportunity to take parental leave to give it a go!
About Westpac’s Parental Leave Policy
Westpac Group promotes flexible working and actively encourages our male employees to take parental leave and to work more flexibly. Our recent YourVoice (2017) results indicate that up to 74% of our employees currently work flexibly. Westpac Group’s Parental Leave Policy offers fathers/partners to take 13 weeks of paid parental leave at full pay if they are the primary carer at any time before their child turns one. Fathers/partners can also take 2 weeks paid leave as the ‘Support Carer’.