Families were never as “traditional” as politicians or 20th century stereotypes would have us believe. Throughout human history, primary caregivers have come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and ages. Until recently, however, it was pretty hard for even high-earning executives at elite U.S. companies to get paid time off for a new baby – especially if they weren’t female and/or hadn’t given birth to the child. But all that is changing. Today, Twitter joins the ranks of tech companies like Facebook, Netflix, and Microsoft, in offering fully paid parental leave for any parent who wants time off to care for a new baby.
(Photo Credit: Garrett Heath/Flickr)
“The goal of this change was to expand how we think about parental leave,” says Jeffrey Siminoff, Twitter’s VP of inclusion and diversity, in an interview with Fortune. “Primary caregiving is something that’s hard to define.”
As of May 1, Twitter will offer 20 weeks of fully paid leave to all employees with a new child, including fathers and adoptive parents. Previously, Twitter’s policy allowed 20 fully paid weeks for birth moms, and 10 weeks for all other parents, including adoptive parents.
Twitter’s director of compensation and benefits, Laura Brady, tells Fortune that the company plans to train managers to deal with managing their teams under the new policy. The company reports that it isn’t sure how many employees will be eligible for the new leave policy in the near future.
Some Fathers Feel Pressure Not to Take Leave
In order for this or any parental leave policy to have its intended effect, fathers will have to take time off as well as mothers. Of course, most working fathers don’t work at Twitter or Netflix; in fact, only 17 percent of employers offer paid paternity leave, according to one survey.
Research shows that dads take only one day off for every month of leave moms take. Forty-two percent return to work after one week, and 81 percent are back at the grindstone after two weeks.
Why would a dad with paid leave not take it? Pressure at work. Some dads who have access to paid leave report feeling unable to take the benefit, lest they signal to their employers that they’re not dedicated to the job.
“…it’s incumbent on these big companies to take another, equally important step: encourage men to actually take the leave,” writes Josh Levs at Time. “Now, most workers who get paternity leave don’t take all that’s offered. ‘It felt like a PR benefit, not a real benefit’ — just there to make the company look good, not for guys to actually use, one dad explained.”
There are some small signs that the tide could be turning, however. For example, Mark Zuckerberg recently took off two months after the birth of his daughter, Max.
“This is a very personal decision, and I’ve decided to take 2 months of paternity leave when our daughter arrives,” Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook, at the time of his leave. “Studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, outcomes are better for the children and families. At Facebook we offer our US employees up to 4 months of paid maternity or paternity leave which they can take throughout the year.”
The more high-powered dads take leave, the more likely it is that other dads will take it as well.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you have paid parental leave at your job? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.