We've no doubt that your company or organisation already has plenty of well thought out policies and perks in place, but no matter how well established they are it’s always a good idea to periodically review them and make sure you’re offering benefits that are not only inline with (or, ideally, better than) your competitors, but that they are also legal and fair.
And paternity leave is one such policy that you would be remiss not to take a second look at since you implemented it. Times are changing and many companies in the United Kingdom are now no longer only anticipating having to give their employees who are also new mothers leave.
After all, dad has played a pretty big part in introducing a newborn baby into the world, so isn’t it only right that he gets the opportunity to take some time off work and enjoy having some time to bond with his new son or daughter too?! And it’s not only parent and baby bonding in these early weeks and months that is so crucial, so too is being able to share childcare duties to create a more balanced, harmonious and equal relationship between the parents. A new baby is hard work - and a job shared is a job halved as they say!
The thing is, statutory maternity leave and statutory paternity leave in the UK is currently, how shall we put it, not on an equal footing. Of course, we all know that the mother has done all the hard work when it comes to the physical acts of carrying a baby and giving birth, but is it really fair that a father is only eligible, as of the time of writing, for just one or two week’s worth of paid paternity leave?
And so the big question is - could you help to create a better company culture, attract more top talent, and increase employee retention by offering a more attractive paternity leave policy? It's highly likely and let's face it, what have you really got to lose?
Is it time to rethink your company's paternity leave policy?
Here’s a statistic for you: did you know that fewer than a third of eligible new dads don’t take any paternity leave at all? This means that you might decide to offer a more impressive paternity leave policy than the government has currently laid out, but you may well find that your employees don’t actually use it.
So what's the point of upgrading your paternity leave policy then? we hear you ask.
Well it would appear that not taking time off isn’t for the lack of desire to spend time with their newborn: many fathers are eager to take paternity leave but feel that pressures at work make it virtually impossible to do so. Therefore, if you offer an enhanced paternity leave package you really need to make sure that your company culture, HR team and managers encourage and promote it.
Offering perks and fair policies is all well and good but employees need to know about them and be encouraged to use them.
The connection between paternity leave and the gender gap
The gender gap normally refers to instances of women in the workplace being treated unfairly in terms of pay and opportunities. And while it is only right that fathers are given time off to spend with their little one, paternity leave is also about helping to distribute the workload so that the mother isn’t doing the lion’s share of the work when it comes to caring for a new baby. Therefore to encourage equality and help to close the gender gap, surely it makes sense to give your male employees who have just become a father an adequate amount of leave to spend at home with their new or growing family?
How does the UK stack up against other countries' paternity leave?
Despite our not very generous one to two week paid paternity leave in the UK, some other countries have it worse. Take the United States, Germany, Egypt and Ethiopia as a few examples: they don’t guarantee new dads any paternity leave at all. Let’s have a look at a few other countries:
South Korea and Japan: fathers of newborn babies are entitled to take up to 12 months of paternity leave. Canada, France and Russia: new dads are offered a minimum of 14 weeks of paternity leave. Finland: three to six weeks of paternity leave paid at 70% of the employee’s salary. South Africa: ten days of unpaid paternity (and maternity) leave for employees when their baby is born. Poland: one week of paid paternity leave. Argentina and Greece: two days of paid paternity leave. Saudi Arabia: one day of unpaid paternity leave. India: offers no statutory paternity leave, although an employer may offer it if they wish. All in all, at present there are 195 countries in the world and 185 of them offer some form of leave to new mothers. Compare that number to paternity leave and the countries offering that drops to 103. And as you can see from the very brief snapshot above, the length of leave and amount of pay varies wildly.
Could you (should you?) offer your male employees better paternity leave?
We know you’ve already thrashed out your company policies and decided how much annual leave to award your employees, and you’ve probably thought long and hard about your perks too: from company days out to subsidised gym memberships to duvet days to free snacks and drinks, there are ample ways of showing your employees that you genuinely care about their quality of life and their wellbeing.
And as an increasing number of companies begin to realise that offering paid paternity leave to their employees is another way to increase engagement, wellness and loyalty, could it be time for you to dust off your current paternity leave policy and see if it can be upgraded at all?