When MarkZuckerberg, founder of social networking site Facebook, took two months offfrom work after the birth of his daughter, he once again drew the world’scollective attention to the liberal parental leave policy culture that existsin most of the Silicon Valley companies. His much publicized act also put arenewed focus on the need for greater recognition of a father’s role in lookingafter a newborn baby. In recentyears, more and more organizations world over have recognized this aspect and revisedtheir parental leave policies to put a greater stress on paternity leaves.
In Finland, in addition to paternity leave,the government further incentivizes fatherhood by offering a ‘daddy’s month’.In Sweden, another country with highly family friendly policies, both parentsare collectively entitled to stay at home with their child for a totalof 480 days, out of which 60 must be taken by the father.Humanresource policies have forever been evolving and accommodating the everchanging requirements of the workforce. Apartfrom bringing in flexibilities in work culture like allowing work from home andflexi-hours, organisations have also been innovative lately to provide maximumpossible satisfaction to the employees in terms of number and types of leaves.A system of just earned, sick and casual leaves is no longer thought to beadequate with greater focus on child birth related leaves which means greaterthrust on both paternity as well as maternity leaves.SocietalChanges A number offactors have brought about this recent thrust. Apart from changing gendernorms, changing social norms are also responsible for this trend.
With nuclear anddual income families becoming the trend, there is a sudden and acute paucity ofcaregivers in our urban landscape. Also, with expansion in city sizes anddistances from home to work going up, employees may not be always in a positionto accommodate a change in their schedule because of birth of a baby in thefamily and the ensuing care that is required for the newly born. All thesefactors are making the workforce more demanding and the human resource departmentsin various companies are recognizing these demands.While therehas been positive movement on maternity leaves front, paternity leaves remainedneglected for a long time, especially in India. But with the latest surveysindicating that the quantum of paternity leaves in an organisition is one ofthe important determinants for men to choose an employer, it is also dawningamong corporates to have an equilibrium in focus on maternity leaves as well aspaternity leaves and be able to attract best talent from the market. A surveyconducted with 97 technology companies in the US found that the companies whichhad paid paternity leave policy was able to get better talent from the market.The companies surveyed included Facebook, Google, Twtich.
tv, PayPal etc. Thesurvey pointed out that 71 percent of the companies that offered paid maternityleave also offered paid paternity leaves. At Sun LifeAsia Service Centre India, we have just doubled the quantum of paternity leavesfrom 5 days to 10 days of paid leaves, making it one of the highest number ofleaves (paternity) among Indian companies. BoostingEmployee Morale It is beingincreasingly recognized today that organizations that offer longer paternityleaves are able to boost the morale of the employees who have just becomefathers.
Just the fact that the employer offers sizeable paternity leave iscomforting to a would-be father and he is able to bond with the company better.Men want tobe with wives in the crucial initial days of child-birth, not just for takingcare of them but also be able to witness the first cry and the first smile ofthe new-born. Men are also willing to take part in child-care more than everbefore.
These requirements of the male workforce are increasingly beingrecognized and honored by the human resource departments.SocialValue of Higher Paternity Leaves Ascorporates become more and more socially responsible and would like tocontribute to the society, increasing the quantum of paternity leave is justanother way of doing that. At the same time, an increasing number of peopleview the idea of paternity leaves as being better aligned with feminist idealsthat envision greater parity in gender roles. A male employee who gets paidleaves after becoming a father is able to share the responsibility ofchild-care more than one who is not given any paid leave or very few paidleaves. This, in turn, encourages the women to remain active members of the workforce,increasing their participation in labour force and reducing gender pay gap.
Allthese factors are beneficial to the society and to the nation. UnfortunatelyIndian organizations are yet to whole-heartedly embrace the idea of paternityleaves, with most still looking at them as unnecessary. What we often fail torealize is that a family-friendly HR policy also contributes to reducingattrition, thereby making not just social but business sense as well.