When looking after a newborn baby. In recent years,

When Mark
Zuckerberg, founder of social networking site Facebook, took two months off
from work after the birth of his daughter, he once again drew the world’s
collective attention to the liberal parental leave policy culture that exists
in most of the Silicon Valley companies. His much publicized act also put a
renewed focus on the need for greater recognition of a father’s role in looking
after a newborn baby.

In recent
years, more and more organizations world over have recognized this aspect and revised
their 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 parents
are collectively entitled to stay at home with their child for a total
of 480 days, out of which 60 must be taken by the father.

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Human
resource policies have forever been evolving and accommodating the ever
changing requirements of the workforce.  Apart
from bringing in flexibilities in work culture like allowing work from home and
flexi-hours, organisations have also been innovative lately to provide maximum
possible 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 be
adequate with greater focus on child birth related leaves which means greater
thrust on both paternity as well as maternity leaves.

Societal
Changes

A number of
factors have brought about this recent thrust. Apart from changing gender
norms, changing social norms are also responsible for this trend. With nuclear and
dual income families becoming the trend, there is a sudden and acute paucity of
caregivers in our urban landscape. Also, with expansion in city sizes and
distances from home to work going up, employees may not be always in a position
to accommodate a change in their schedule because of birth of a baby in the
family and the ensuing care that is required for the newly born. All these
factors are making the workforce more demanding and the human resource departments
in various companies are recognizing these demands.

While there
has been positive movement on maternity leaves front, paternity leaves remained
neglected for a long time, especially in India. But with the latest surveys
indicating that the quantum of paternity leaves in an organisition is one of
the important determinants for men to choose an employer, it is also dawning
among corporates to have an equilibrium in focus on maternity leaves as well as
paternity leaves and be able to attract best talent from the market. A survey
conducted with 97 technology companies in the US found that the companies which
had paid paternity leave policy was able to get better talent from the market.
The companies surveyed included Facebook, Google, Twtich.tv, PayPal etc. The
survey pointed out that 71 percent of the companies that offered paid maternity
leave also offered paid paternity leaves.   

At Sun Life
Asia Service Centre India, we have just doubled the quantum of paternity leaves
from 5 days to 10 days of paid leaves, making it one of the highest number of
leaves (paternity) among Indian companies.  

Boosting
Employee Morale

It is being
increasingly recognized today that organizations that offer longer paternity
leaves are able to boost the morale of the employees who have just become
fathers. Just the fact that the employer offers sizeable paternity leave is
comforting to a would-be father and he is able to bond with the company better.

Men want to
be with wives in the crucial initial days of child-birth, not just for taking
care of them but also be able to witness the first cry and the first smile of
the new-born. Men are also willing to take part in child-care more than ever
before. These requirements of the male workforce are increasingly being
recognized and honored by the human resource departments.

Social
Value of Higher Paternity Leaves

As
corporates become more and more socially responsible and would like to
contribute to the society, increasing the quantum of paternity leave is just
another way of doing that. At the same time, an increasing number of people
view the idea of paternity leaves as being better aligned with feminist ideals
that envision greater parity in gender roles. A male employee who gets paid
leaves after becoming a father is able to share the responsibility of
child-care more than one who is not given any paid leave or very few paid
leaves. This, in turn, encourages the women to remain active members of the workforce,
increasing their participation in labour force and reducing gender pay gap. All
these factors are beneficial to the society and to the nation.

Unfortunately
Indian organizations are yet to whole-heartedly embrace the idea of paternity
leaves, with most still looking at them as unnecessary. What we often fail to
realize is that a family-friendly HR policy also contributes to reducing
attrition, thereby making not just social but business sense as well.