In 2015, Amazon announced a six-week paternity leave and increased maternity leave to 20 weeks. Taking it a notch higher, Netflix decided to give new parents up to a year off after the birth of a child. Microsoft, Bloomberg, Coca-Cola, Facebook, and Johnson & Johnson, among several other companies, have acknowledged through paternity leave policies that, other than office work, dads have an important role to play at home too.
The writing on the wall: paternity leave is in. And there’s greater understanding now of how it benefits different stakeholders.
- Supports talent management. In an earlier post, we discussed how parenting impacts all aspects of our lives and about the need to bridge the gap between parenting and work. That’s as true for new fathers as it’s for new mothers. Millennial fathers are more involved in bringing up their children compared to the previous generations. And they rate work-life balance as a key criterion for joining or leaving an employer.
- Promotes gender equality. Fathers who take paternity leave are more likely to take an active role in child-care tasks, even later as the child is growing up. That’s great for the child – early interaction between father and child has long-term benefits for the latter’s learning abilities. And it’s great for women too. Maternity leaves often have a negative effect on women’s wages, experience, and promotion possibilities. When men shoulder baby care responsibilities, this effect is lessened.
- Creates financial and cultural benefits. Growing evidence suggests that parental leave policies bring financial and cultural benefits that could change the world. “The health, happiness, and well-being of men, children, and women improve. Women’s income increases. And battles between the sexes diminish,” suggests Gary Barker, President and CEO of Promundo, an organization that engages men and boys in gender equality.
And the costs? Business writer Joanne Sammer found that the cost of paid parental leave is actually negligible for employers that have a large population of salaried employees. In fact, employers’ concerns about paternity policy costs are often weighed against the potential gains: attracting and retaining key talent and the benefits to the organization’s reputation as an employer.
Employees agree too. They believe there are no negative consequences for fathers taking paternity leave. They return to their former positions, are still well connected to colleagues and clients, get promoted, and are in general not treated differently than their co-workers.
In 2013, entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie spoke about how his paternity leave had changed him – as a dad, husband, and an executive – in three months. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg challenged stereotypes with his hands-on parenting, supporting the company’s four-month paternity leave policy. What would a great paternity leave policy look like and how essential is it for you? Share your ideas with us.