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Taking time off to make a change – the real value of paternity leave

In Luxembourg, Ronny works at Julius Baer in a high-profile role – but stepping back to take six months’ paternity leave was the best way forward after his daughter’s birth. Discover why this move holds the key to a more diverse workplace – and why it contributes to a richer family life in more ways than one.

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When Ronny learned he was going to be a father, he and his wife were confronted with a myriad of questions that many young families-to-be need to ponder. Who is going to take care of the baby? Who will keep on working? Are both partners sharing their responsibilities and if so, how?

Questioning societal norms

“The fact that we were expecting a daughter only made it more evident to me that it’s still largely the mother who is expected to be caring for a newborn,” says Ronny, who took advantage of the six months’ paternity leave available to him. “Yet the implications for mothers who decide to stay at home during the first few months go far beyond their maternity leave: many women return to their job only part-time, with possible consequences for their careers, pension, and overall financial independence.”
While paternity leave structures across European countries vary, the general direction is to promote gender equality by not obliging parents to choose between their family lives and their careers. 
“Yet even if the necessary structures are in place, it is still not very common for fathers to take on the role of primary caregiver in the first few months,” notes Ronny. 

Taking bold steps

When she was pregnant with their first daughter, Ronny’s wife was studying at medical school. “I wanted to find a way to support my wife and be there for my daughter. 
“And, deep down, I also wanted to be a role model for those fathers who wish to take on an active role from the very beginning of their child’s life,” Ronny explains.
With this intention, Ronny approached his line manager, Thomas, who was fully supportive of his plans. “What it takes is courage, on both the employee’s and employer’s part,” adds Thomas. “Courage to take on uncharted territory, and the support of everyone involved: line manager, deputy, and team – before, during, and after someone’s absence.”

The personal benefits

“I was lucky that not just my line manager, but also my deputy and the whole team had my back,” says Ronny. “It all comes down to planning, communicating openly, and finally having the courage to let go. Six months seemed like a long time, but my initial concern that I would be out of the loop on important things or wouldn’t find my feet again after coming back hasn’t come true at all.”
His time as a full-time dad has not only given Ronny a chance to ease into his new role as a father and spend more time with his daughter, it has also helped him appreciate the role caregivers play in a child’s development. “I would have missed out hugely without having had this experience. My wife and I have developed a mutual understanding for each other which is invaluable.”

The professional benefits

What’s more, Ronny’s time-off has also been eye opening on a professional level: “Spending time away from work has given me a new perspective on my job. 
Not being caught up in the daily goings-on has allowed me to make new connections and come up with innovative solutions which I wouldn’t have had a chance to develop otherwise.”
And last but not least, Ronny’s deputy David and his team have also taken away invaluable learnings: “It’s definitely been an enrichment of my leadership role which has allowed the team and me to grow immensely,” says David. 
Both Ronny and David appreciate the team spirit, as well as the empowerment and the support they’ve felt throughout the years.  
“Only by acknowledging that individuals have different needs which may change over time can we truly live up to our commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive environment in which employees feel truly valued – and be the employer of choice we aspire to be,” concludes Ronny.

Diversity & Inclusion at Julius Baer

Ronny is also an active Volunteer of the global D&I (Diversity & Inclusion) initiative at Julius Baer . He says: “I’ve always felt strongly about creating a work environment where everybody’s needs are heard. At the end of the day, we are all humans with changing needs and priorities, and can only bring our best to work when we are truly supported as individuals.”
He adds: “That’s why I got in touch with the D&I Committee, offering my help in making diversity and inclusion tangible for our colleagues across the globe.”