Why it is important to make organisations family friendly
When Mark Zuckerberg, founder of social networking site Facebook, took two months off from work after the birth of his daughter, he drew the world’s collective attention to the liberal parental leave policy culture that exists in most of the Silicon Valley companies. His much publicised act also 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 organisations, world over, have recognised this aspect and revised their parental leave policies to stress on paternity leaves. In Finland, in addition to paternity leave, the government further incentivises 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.
Human resource policies have forever been evolving and accommodating the ever changing requirements of the workforce. Apart from bringing in flexibilities in work culture, such as allowing work from home and flexi-hours, organisations have also been innovative lately in providing maximum possible satisfaction to the employees in terms of number and types of leaves. A system of only earned, sick and casual leaves is no longer thought to be adequate. With greater focus on childbirth-related leaves, there is now a bigger thrust on both paternity as well as maternity leaves.
A number of factors have brought about this recent thrust. Apart from changing gender norms, varying 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 always be in a position to accommodate a change in their schedule because of the birth of a baby in the family and the ensuing care required for the newly born. All these factors are making the workforce more demanding and the human resource departments in various companies are recognising these demands.
While there was positive movement on the 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 most important determinants for men to choose an employer, corporates are now trying to focus equally on maternity as well as paternity leaves, to be able to attract the best talent from the market. A survey conducted with 97 technology companies in the US found that the companies which offered paid paternity leave were able to get better talent from the market. The companies surveyed included Facebook, Google, Twtich.tv and PayPal. The survey pointed out that 71 per cent of the companies that offered paid maternity leave also offered paid paternity leaves.
At Sun Life Asia Service Centre India, the quantum of paternity leaves has just been double from five 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 recognised today that organisations offering longer paternity leaves are able to boost the morale of the employees who have just become fathers. 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 childbirth, not just to take care of them but also witness the first cry and the first smile of the newborn. Men are also willing actively participate in childcare more than ever before. These requirements of the male workforce are increasingly being recognised and honoured by the human resource departments.
Social value of higher paternity leaves
As corporates become more and more socially responsible, increasing the quantum of paternity leave is just another way of contributing to the society. 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 childcare better than one who enjoys very few paid leaves or is not entitled to any. This, in turn, encourages the women to remain active members of the workforce, increases their participation in the labour force and reduces gender pay gap. All these factors are beneficial to the society and to the nation.
Unfortunately, Indian organisations are yet to whole-heartedly embrace the idea of paternity leaves, with most still looking at them as unnecessary. What we often fail to realise is that a family-friendly HR policy also contributes to reducing attrition, thereby making not just social but business sense as well.
(The author is VP, HR, Sun Life Financial Asia Service Centre)