A man with short brown hair reading a children’s book to his toddler on paternity leave. The boy has his back to the camera.
Mastercard’s Robert Collins with son Anton. Image: Mastercard

What are the benefits of paternity leave?

25 Sep 2018

When employers offer extended maternity leave, it’s great. But what about paternity leave? Robert Collins availed of Mastercard’s eight-week paternity leave policy.

Like buses, life’s big changes often come all at once. I joined Mastercard two weeks before the birth of my first child. As if changing jobs and having a baby wasn’t fun enough, I was moving house at the same time! Nothing like cramming three major life changes into a month.

In talking to others around the office, it has quickly become clear big events like these just attract each other.

While interviewing for Mastercard, I highlighted that I would need a little time off once my baby was born. Ireland introduced paternity leave as a statutory benefit a year or two ago, so I asked if it would be possible to take two weeks off when my baby was born.

I was worried that the timing would cause issues and that I’d have to defer the leave for a period of time. I was quickly put at ease when one of the interviewers mentioned the policy of eight weeks’ paid paternity leave with the flexibility to split it over the first year.

This is a massive increase over the statutory two weeks! I was so surprised, I double-checked during the second interview just to make sure.

When Anton arrived, I took two of my eight weeks. They’re only a blur now; the running in and out of hospital, trying to coordinate a painter and move furniture, while also trying to be a supportive partner and father. It was an amazing time!

I saved the rest of the leave until 10 months later and the split of time has worked out really well. It has meant I got to help my wife and son during the hectic first weeks, establish myself in Mastercard and enjoy Anton at a time when he’s rapidly running around discovering the world.

I think I really underestimated the time and attention involved as Anton grew. Before paternity leave, I’d spend some time with him before work in the morning and evenings. Weekends were family time, with my wife still doing a lot.

On leave, I had full days with him. Meal preparation, cleaning, coordinating naps and friend visits. The constant change in taste for food and fun. Foods he liked only yesterday would be thrown on the floor. Toys he liked playing with discarded without even looking at them. Entertaining him was a full-time job.

My paternity leave has really benefited the whole family. My wife took a full year of maternity leave, only returning to work  in July. Neither of us has siblings or parents living full-time in Dublin.

Robert Collins with son Anton. Image: Robert Collins

With limited access to babysitting, most of the job fell to her. With me available, she has been able to get out running, go to a yoga class, even do simple things like getting her hair done. I think it’s been really helpful for her preparing to return to work.

Being slightly older (is 40 old?), we’ve seen friends and family struggle with premature and sick babies. I’ve learned that every pregnancy is different. The challenges people face are hugely varied.

Babies are fragile creatures. For many, this leave isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity. Knowing that you’ve some paid time off and a family-friendly employer really did take some of the stress out of it.

A big thank you to Mastercard for giving dads this great benefit! It shows a real commitment to invest in staff. As somebody new to the company, it was a great introduction.

It’s given my family real time to bond. I arrived home after the first day back at work last week to my son sprinting over to me. He quickly presented me with his favourite book (Dinosaur Dance!) and we got down to playing.

By Robert Collins

Robert Collins is a software engineering consultant in Mastercard Labs.

A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn on 6 July 2018.

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