06/06/2019 Molly Moseley

Equal Leave For All

Having a baby is a wonderful experience, but adjusting to parenthood can be a roller coaster of ups and downs. It takes time to find a rhythm, and even after baby becomes a bit more independent, there are still challenges. Bottom line: There’s nothing that has quite as much impact on your life as bringing another human being into the mix.

There’s been quite a bit of attention paid recently to the importance of maternal care, particularly right after birth, though the United States remains the only industrialized nation without paid maternity leave. Some companies — like Netflix, Microsoft, and Johnson & Johnson — have stepped up to create their own paid parental leave policies, but many other companies do not have such offerings.

While we are all for women getting the support they need, especially when they kick off their motherhood journey, but what about the dads? Certainly their role is crucial in bonding and caring for a newborn, allowing the family to thrive as a unit. However, they are often expected to take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks off (often unpaid FMLA leave like their partners), and head back into the office ready to roll like they haven’t skipped a beat.

There seems to be an outdated cultural view of men versus women in the role of parenting. In a modern age where we strive for equality, why is this a space where we default to traditional gender roles? There is no such thing as a primary parent. All parents should be viewed equally in what they do for their children and the time required to be the best parent possible.

The courts seem to agree. JPMorgan recently settled a $5 million case where a male employee claimed the company’s parental leave policy was biased, pointing to specific language and rules regarding “primary caregiver.” Despite some parents spending more time with their child because they have chosen to stay home with them, a parent is a parent, and while how the care for children shakes out is different across families, ultimately parents share equal responsibility for a child’s care, especially legally.

It’s time companies take a fresh look at their parental leave policies and make sure they aren’t reinforcing out-of-date gender roles. Here are some things to consider as you review your policies and shift your company’s cultural view on parenthood:

Include both mothers and fathers (and LGBT), or better yet, make your policy gender neutral

Include all types of events where a person becomes a parent, such as adoption, and surrogacy

Provide paid time off to relieve the financial burden

Show leave is a priority by making sure management takes the full leave so all employees are comfortable in doing the same

Allow parents to ease back into work part-time or with a flexible schedule after parental leave is up

Companies can feel good about the benefits of holistic parental leave policies for mothers, fathers, and babies. They also reap the reward as touting these policies can be a wonderful recruiting tool, especially for millennials, who are frequently seeking employment at organizations that support work-life balance and family.