In March of 2013, I became a father for the first time. My wife and I were doubly blessed with twins — a boy and girl. I realized quickly that the pundits were correct: Nothing prepares you for being a full-time parent.
Fortunately, being in academia, I had significant discretion in planning my schedule. I could stay home three mornings a week while my wife worked. However, it often meant heading into the office at 5 a.m. on Saturdays to catch up on the work that I missed while I wasn’t in the office.
The one option that was unavailable to me, however, was paid leave. At the time of the birth of my children, my organization did not have a child bonding policy for faculty. Time off is particularly difficult for most professors as work is divided into distinct segments: 10-week quarters or 15 to 16-week semesters. Even with proper family planning, one cannot simply come in after 12 weeks and finish out the semester, or teach for five weeks and then leave their class to someone else to complete the work. Additionally, many faculty will work on nine-month contracts, and do not accrue vacation pay that could provide income while they take time off under FMLA.
These challenges are, in many ways, no different than what many employees face when they want to take time off to address family issues.
So, why should talent advisors be in favor of paid paternity leave for organizations?
Families are more divided by distance than ever.
One of the issues my wife and I (as well as many, many others) face is that both our immediate families live far away from us. It is a seven-hour drive to my parents’ house, and even farther to my wife’s. We no longer live in the ’50s — a time when a significant number of employees had multigenerational relatives in the same town to lean on. Paid parental leave thus provides many employees an ability to take care of their immediate family without worrying about income or work obligations.
It can appeal to fiscal conservatives.
While some might be concerned about the cost to employers, a Rutgers study found that paid family leave was cost-effective. The presence of paid leave led to not only greater labor force attachment, but also to decreased use of public assistance, such as food stamps, as well.
“At a time when governments are struggling with deficits and working families are struggling to stay afloat, this new study shows that allowing workers to take paid time off to recover from illness or care for their families saves precious government and taxpayer resources, while giving families the stability they urgently need,” explained Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families.
3. Paid paternity leave is a tool to attract and retain top talent.
With unemployment falling, and competition for talent increasing, paid paternity leave can be used to differentiate employers. Further, research conducted by Ernst & Young Global Generations found that millennials “value flexibility and paid parental leave” more than Generation X or boomers. Also, for millennials, companies that offer paid leave are more likely to recommend that company, be more engaged and happier, and even join the company.
my employer’s new policy
My employer realized that in a competitive marketplace, where attracting faculty to come join our organization is difficult (it gets cold in Northeast Wisconsin in the winter), paid paternal leave can help us stand out from other colleges and universities. Consequently, the college recently adopted a child bonding policy that provides an opportunity for faculty members to take parental leave for up to a two-semester length of time over a rolling four-year period. A faculty member may choose to take off during, or immediately following, the full semester in which the birth or adoption takes place. The policy also provides 85 percent of the employee’s salary for the full academic year. In a culture where community is emphasized, addressing parental leave is both natural and crucial. Talent advisors everywhere would be wise to emulate this path.
Throughout the month of July, our resident talent advisors are discussing issues around work-life balance. Subscribe to Talent Advisor to stay on top of the latest blog posts and discussions around unlimited PTO, modeling good work-life behaviors as an employer, working from home, gender differences and PTO, maternity and paternity leave, and much more.