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Adland needs to embrace trust to make progress on parental leave

Rob Trono, Creative Director at Blue State on why dads need to ask for more and the industry needs to be open to change.

Rob Trono, Blue State

Group Creative Director

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Adland needs to learn to trust its staff when it comes to parental leave - and dads need to be asking for more

My first kid arrived in March this year. Since then, I've spent three full months out of the office - and when he starts nursery, I’ll take some more time off, and then go part time for a while. 

None of this would be remarkable if I was a woman. But as you may have gathered from my headshot and byline, I’m not.

My wife has time off too - but it’s not relevant to this discussion. However long she has off, it matters that I have more than a few weeks too. 

Historically, though, her time off would have been how our son was looked after, and I’d have been back at work full time for all except two weeks - or maybe just a tiny bit longer, if I worked at a generous agency, or we could afford the financial hit of shared parental leave. 

Yes, even in most of adland, which likes to pat itself on the back for any crumbs it can offer parents, parental leave is not equal

Advertising and marketing parental leave policies all tend to look the same.

From promoting ‘allowing you to attend sports day’, to ‘bedtime policies’ that allow you to go home to ‘do bedtime’ one night a week, the depressing, rigid options continue.

Rob Trono, Creative Director at Blue State

Working mums can get a fairly random number of weeks at full pay, some at half pay, depending on how long you’ve been there. If you’re a man or a non-birth parent, it’s almost inevitably less, though equally complicated. 

And then when the kids turn up: from promoting ‘allowing you to attend sports day’, to ‘bedtime policies’ that allow you to go home to ‘do bedtime’ one night a week, the depressing, rigid options continue. Many of them seem to start from the assumption that lazy working parents are scamming the business by daring to have to leave for a 6pm nursery pick up, when instead you’re at the mercy of the childcare system’s strict yet unpredictable changes.

But increasingly. outside of adland, at the best firms (and those we compete with for talent) parental leave is straightforward: six months or a year at full pay, longer on less, and more available if you need it - for all parents, whatever gender. Our sector needs to catch up.

(Netflix - unlimited in year 1; UNICEF, 37 weeks for all, Natwest, 52 weeks for everyone, 24 fully paid. I could go on and on.)

Last month, we added Blue State London to that list 26 weeks full pay, plus unlimited further time off (6.5 weeks of it at full pay). That’s it - no hoops, no mental gymnastics. 

So adland dads, or those who might be one day: if your company doesn’t offer equal parental leave, make your voices heard. Silence in this is complicit with making things worse for everyone.

Rob Trono, Creative Director at Blue State

Habits are hard to break - we slump into them like an old pair of pyjamas. It’s easy to take the path that’s expected; to feel the pressure to be there, take late nights as routine, let a female partner pay the childcare tax. How much of the narrative that ‘women are more natural at caring for children’ comes from the fact that we still really force them into doing most of it?

When we don’t set this pattern at the start, it persists through life. Who picks up the kids when they fall over or throw up at school? Who manages school holidays, takes kids to football, dance class, buys uniforms, coordinates endless birthday parties? 

We need to break the habits. Dads everywhere need to stand up and start asking for more. The March of the Mummies in London was great - but we need mums and dads, and all other categories of parent and carer to be equal in the mix and trusted to do what they know is best for them. 

Until they are, things can’t change. That means adland needs to be offering equal parental leave, across the board, and supporting parents with however they want to work/return to work.

It’s easy to take the path that’s expected; to feel the pressure to be there, take late nights as routine, let a female partner pay the childcare tax.

Rob Trono, Creative Director at Blue State

However much you love your child, parenting - especially in the early years - is hard and exhausting. Being an equal partner in that helps you realise that and understand the impact and what it means. It means you understand that however busy your day in the office is, you need to get in from work and take the baby. It evolves as they get older, but you’re still needed.

It means that one partner's identity isn’t subsumed into ‘parent’ - and means you can better empathise and support each other, rather than turning everything into a bitter trade off. 

So adland dads, or those who might be one day: if your company doesn’t offer equal parental leave, make your voices heard. Silence in this is complicit with making things worse for everyone.

Sign the current petition (run by March of the Mummies) to make maternity and paternity leave equal here.

Guest Author

Rob Trono, Blue State

Group Creative Director

About

Rob attended Chelsea College of Art & Design achieving a BA in Fine Art. Since, Rob has developed expertise in Creative for Marketing and UI/UX design; holding a foundation diploma in interaction design, specialising in emotional and social-economical subject matters. At Blue State, and in his previous 20 years in the industry, Rob has been involved in projects that make a difference. From recently trying to change the global discourse regarding refugees for UNHCR and making Londoners aware of the influence they can have regarding the capital's future for The London Assembly, to convincing young mothers of the need for first aid advice for their babies or toddlers for The British Red Cross.

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