Recently, we sat down with Grace Stokes and Simone Farrall of Hames Sharley to discuss the revamped parental leave package and how these industry-leading changes will directly impact the new addition to their families and their careers. Here’s what they had to say.

How will you be personally impacted by Hames Sharley’s new Paid Parental Leave policy?

Grace: Personally, the additional support means so much to my family. It acknowledges that, as a woman and a new mum, I am seen by Hames Sharley as a valued family member. It means that my company cares for me beyond the standard 9 – 5 job. It’s a significant step in the right direction to equality for all new parents, and I applaud the People & Culture Team, the Champions for Change group and Leadership Group for achieving this excellent policy!

Simone: Welcoming a new baby to your family is an exciting time filled with a lot of happiness and joy, but it’s also commonly a time where families need to focus on the less exciting aspects of a growing family, like budgets and savings. Hames Sharley’s new Paid Parental Leave policy has given me the certainty and support I need to take to establish a strong bond with my new baby and has taken a lot of pressure off my husband and me to meet the household needs.

How will it change your long-term plans?

Grace: This policy gives me the certainty that when I return to work, I’ll be welcomed back and that I will be given the time and support I will need to reintegrate back into working life. I feel more confident that my family will be able to balance family time with work time. It means I can continue to have a career equal to that of all my colleagues,
regardless of family status.

Simone: A blunt reality is that employers and employees need to be the right fit for each other, and regrettably, major life changes like kids can shift that working relationship, forcing a change, which was always in the back of my mind. With this Paid Parental Leave policy, Hames Sharley has shown they are just as committed to me as I am to them. I have strong personal values, and I choose to work for Hames Sharley because I feel as though our values align. The Paid Parental Leave policy reinforces that Hames Sharley will support my family and me throughout all changes; so, I would probably say that my long-term plan is Hames Sharley!

Previously, what worried you about the juggle of an architecture career and parenthood?

Grace: Working in an industry which is technical and fast-moving (and at times, stressful) I’ve often worried that by taking time out I will fall behind and not be capable of returning to work in the same way I was before having my baby. But at Hames Sharley, we value our family and all its members; this policy is the formalisation of that family support. It’s such a positive step to ensure no parents get left behind while raising their children. I hope Hames Sharley can continue to expand its offering to support parents returning to work and caring for children as we learn more from the success of this policy.

Simone: I am a Contract Manager for Hames Sharley, so I work in project delivery with large scale projects, but I tend to think career challenges for new parents are, for the most part universal. Children and a career are a complex issue; I think for a long time people assumed you couldn’t have both, and that was true when looking at outdated employment practices, such as inflexible working and limited employee connectivity. Now, flexible working is becoming the standard, and dynamic workplace connectivity is excellent, so we have come a long way, but unfortunately, the impacts of long leave periods to start a family remain, which is a deterrent for some people. A formal Paid Parental Leave policy closes that gap, which means staff at Hames Sharley don’t need to feel conflicted when starting a family and continuing to pursue their career.

What do you hope progressive paid parental leave policies will change about the architecture industry in general?

Grace: My wish is that in every company, across every level of staff and leadership, there is equality in gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age and diversity to give architecture as a profession the best chance to thrive and survive in what is becoming a more challenging operating environment. By having as many different minds and perspectives as possible, we will continue to maintain the relevance of architecture as a profession and create places and spaces which inspire the best in our communities.

Simone: Architecture is a process of taking the needs of the user and creating an outcome which meets that need in a considered and progressive way. I would love to see universal adoption of Paid Parental Leave policies throughout the architecture industry as it would strengthen the considered and progressive approach in our industry. The architecture industry should aspire to be a corporate leader in equality and forward-thinking amongst professional services. I feel proud to say that Hames Sharley values and invests in its employees and is leading the way forward. Still, I hope that soon all companies will recognise that it’s a fundamental and necessary part of running a business which values its employees and equal opportunity. It’s not just a plan for women; it’s a plan for all parents; it’s a plan to support families, and an employee who has a happy and supported family is an employee that performs best at work every day.