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It was a life changing moment for Shashank Pandey, Manager Technology Procurement, when he welcomed the birth of his second son, Arjun. Not only was he thrilled to hold his son in his arms, he was going to take the full 18 weeks paternal leave entitled to him as a parent – and be the first from the Singapore office to do so.

Having gone through the ‘working dad guilt’ and not feeling present enough for his wife and his firstborn, Shashank took full advantage of the newly implemented gender-neutral policy for the BHP Singapore office which enables parents to take 18 weeks paternal leave.

“While I had my fair share of diaper duties and weekend caregiver role for my first son, it just didn’t feel quite enough. When our second child came along, I was determined to be more involved and be present for the important milestones,” said Shashank.

“I was elated when the new parental leave policy was rolled out in Singapore. It clearly signalled that this time was not just important to me, but also to the organisation. Combined with a recent promotion for my partner that would accelerate her career, I was very keen to explore the opportunity of taking on the main caregiver role.”

Shashank spent almost a week preparing his pitch to his reporting manager, Robyn Dittrich, Vice President Procurement. 6 in 10 Dads in Singapore don’t take mandatory parental leave available to them – Shashank was facing similar apprehensions around his career and how the decision might be perceived.

The conversation took him by surprise – Robyn was in full support and the discussion that took less than two minutes focussed more on the ‘how’ instead of the ‘why’. In pursuing his parental goals, this also meant Robyn and Shashank were able to create a secondment opportunity enabling someone else to step in so that Shashank can confidently lean out.

At BHP, we are committed to providing a safe, inclusive and supportive workplace for all. Our policies are designed to enable and empower our people to bring their whole self to work.

Shashank was also encouraged by the outpouring of support from not just his immediate peers and team members, but across the organisation, including senior leaders and a note from CEO, Mike Henry.

Crediting BHP’s Singapore Women’s Professional Network, Shashank shared that the employee resource group ‘not only pushed for the policy change but led the way on cultural acceptance through their #leanout* and fireside conversations.

Shashank’s top tip for dads who might be struggling to make the decision – “the biggest blockers are often in our own mind. We are fortunate to have flexible work policies and resources that empower us to make this decision. importantly, have that conversation early with your manager and work with them to develop your plan”.

For Shashank, the most treasured part of parental leave was having the physical time and mental space to be present for Arjun, and to have him and his brother grow up knowing that Dads too, can stay home.

#leanout is a Singapore Women Professional Network initiative to support our male colleagues who want to spend more time with their families, leverage BHP leave policies and challenge traditional gender roles.

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