Exploring The Role of the Father-Friendly Workplace in Modern Businesses

When we hear the term “family friendly workplace,” our minds often automatically think mothers. We tend to conjure images of working moms who are trying to balance the demands of their job along with their children and families. That image of course is still one that’s a hot button issue in the corporate world, but along with it there’s another concept: the father-friendly workplace.

The idea of creating a family friendly work environment has extended to include not only moms but also dads.

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Family Friendly Policies in the U.S.

The United States is viewed as less welcoming toward family-centric workplace policies than say Canada or European countries.

CNBC recently covered the issue, citing the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics says only 13 percent of U.S. employees have paid family leave. The U.S. also doesn’t have a federally mandated paid family leave policy. While U.S. workers may realize this is something that lags behind Europe and Canada, it’s interesting that China offers 13 weeks of guaranteed maternity leave time and Mexico provides for 12 weeks. The United Kingdom mandates employees get a whopping 40 weeks.

While there may not be a lot of government-mandated regulations regarding paid maternity leave, some private companies are taking it upon themselves to be leaders.

Microsoft just announced a recent expansion of not only maternity leave but also paternity leave. The newly updated policy offers 20 weeks for new moms and 12 weeks for dads. Adobe Systems also announced a policy shift, increasing maternity leave to 26 weeks for moms and 16 weeks for dads.

Netflix made headlines by announcing that top employees, both moms and dads, would potentially be eligible for up to a year of paid maternity or paternity leave time.

These companies are hoping these changes will help them lure in talented employees as part of an attractive benefits package. They’re also hoping it will help them keep their current top performers and reduce the costs associated with employee turnover.

In the CNBC article covering this topic, Stew Friedman who serves as a professor at the Wharton School of Business, said that while there may be short-term costs associated for businesses implementing these more liberal maternity and paternity policies, the long-term gains will likely be worth it.

Friedman said the following in the interview with CNBC: “If you invest in the whole person, you get commitment, loyalty, and extraordinary effort.”

He went on to say that if you treat people as “fully human beings, they become ambassadors and advocates for your company.”

The Paternity Focus

While the companies named above are offering paternity leave options, fathers still see a discrepancy in what mothers are provided in the family-friendly workplace model.

It has led some dads to take legal action. On the site BigThink.com, Robert Montenegro writes about a CNN employee who sued the company for not giving him more than the two weeks of paid leave offered to fathers. His daughter was born five weeks premature. The two weeks were allocated for biological fathers, while CNN provided quite a bit more time for mothers and adoptive parents.

According to that employee, Josh Levs, this was gender discrimination. The case settled, and CNN changed its policies to provide equal time for all new parents.

Dad-Friendly Companies

The three companies mentioned at the start of this post aren’t the only ones making strides when it comes to happy dads.

Other companies leading the way include:

Bank of America: While a lot of the firms that tend to be most progressive in their family-friendly policies are tech-based, Bank of America is also actually right up there as well. Bank of America offers twelve weeks of paid paternity leave. Also, if dads can shoulder some unpaid time, Bank of America offers 14 additional weeks of unpaid leave.

Patagonia: This outdoor company offers eight weeks of paid paternity time but is also unique because of their on-site daycare options. If your kids are in school during the day but need after-school care, Patagonia offers transportation from schools to the office daycare.

Google: While Google offers seven weeks of paid paternity leave, if you’re the primary caregiver for your child, whether you’re a mother or father, that amount goes up to 12 weeks. Google is also known for offering unique benefits if an employee passes away. The family may receive 50 percent of that employee’s salary for ten years. Kids of that employee may receive $1,000 a month until they’re 19 or even longer if they’re a student.

Father-Friendly Workplace Ideas

While huge companies like Bank of America and Google may be able to offer unique perks that cater to dads, not every company is going to have that ability.

At the same time, providing benefits that are family related to not only moms but also dads is a great talent management strategy.

A few tips to make it work include:

  • Ask your employees what’s important to them. You may find that your employees are more interested in flexible jobs than they are paid paternity leave or vice versa. All staff are going to be different and by offering what you see as father friendly solutions that your employees don’t really want, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Maybe your employees would like a compressed work week, or the opportunity to split paid paternity leave time over a longer period.
  • If it’s not feasible for your small business to offer a large period of paid paternity leave, think about offering a percentage of pay during paternity leave. Or you could also follow the Bank of America model and provide some paid time, with the option to take longer unpaid time off.
  • Make your workplace one in which the focus is on the outcome of work, rather than how it gets done. This leads to an overall sense of flexibility which also tends to mean more satisfied employees and less turnover. If you have dads that flourish when working remotely, then incorporate that into your talent management strategy.
  • Crunch the numbers. Consider how much it would cost you if you were to lose your top dad employees. You can then have a real number that will allow you to develop more father-friendly policies that aren’t going to impact negatively your business in terms of finances.

Is your company one that strives to be not only family friendly but also father friendly? How do you make it work?

October 2, 2015   Updated :October 5, 2015   benefits, family, paternity leave   

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