Article (January-2018)


The Case for Paternity Leave: Organizations need to become family-friendly

Rajeev Bhardwaj

Designation : -   Vice President-Human Resource

Organization : -  Sun Life Financial Asia Service Centre, Gurugram


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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.
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,, 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.