“My name is Sean Coyne and I have just returned from 12 months’ unpaid leave to look after my daughter Imogen who is now 22 months old.
“I am a solicitor specialising in employment law at international law firm Simmons & Simmons LLP. I was not entitled to take statutory leave to look after Imogen but my firm encourages flexible working arrangements (4 of 6 partners in my team work flexibly).
“As employment lawyers, gender equality, flexible working and family leave are at the front of our thinking and I decided it was important for me to take the time out of the office as I wanted to become properly involved in Imogen’s life.
“Working in the city can leave very little time for home and I didn’t want to miss out. I also realised that while I was at work I didn’t really understand what looking after Imogen full-time involved for my wife Louise.
“For Imogen’s first 8 months my wife was on maternity leave and I was at work. When I went on leave, my wife returned to work full-time.
“As a result, we now have a good understanding of the strains of being the primary carer at home, and also what it feels like to be at work and not be as fully engaged as one might want in home life. We have a better sense of what’s like to be in each other’s shoes, and it’s really strengthened the bond between us, so the bond with Imogen has been fantastic, and the bond with my wife has been awesome too.
“It has been eye-opening to experience people’s reactions to a father taking a prolonged period of leave to look after a child: while there has been much work for gender equality in the workplace, it seems that equality in the home still has some catching up to do.”