Daddy's day out


Companies are doing their bit to promote gender equality—with special focus on male employees at workplace

Think child birth, think maternity leave. The focus has always been on the mother, especially if she is a working woman. It is time to change the discourse from maternity leave to parental leave, believes Neha Bagaria, the founder and CEO of a startup, JobsForHer. She feels that fathers take on more of the care-giving role, and if provided the work environment to do so through paternity leave, mothers can balance work and family better. “Companies can and should design family-friendly policies that enable both parents to care for children, while maintaining their roles at work. Family leave, childcare, flexibility are all basic needs. They shouldn’t be considered bonuses, they should be the bottom line,” says Bagaria.

Experts like Bagaria feel that paid paternity leave can help foster better father-child relationships. “An absence of paternity leave implies that child care is the responsibility of only the woman. Companies need to realise that childcare is not just a woman’s responsibility, it is a parent’s responsibility. The father, too, has a role in raising a child. Paternity leave should also be provided in addition to maternity leave and should be non-negotiable. In fact, lack of paternity leave further increases gender biases as it keeps the women out of the workforce,” adds Bagaria.

Companies such as PayPal, recently, revamped their maternity and paternity leave policies, which reflects their understanding of the evolving family dynamics among their employees, where women employees get 26 weeks off and men 10 days, to prepare for the arrival of a baby into their lives. Visa also has an expanded parental leave policy where parents receive significant paid time off.

Interestingly, an MNC such as ADP even has an adoption leave policy besides the paternity leave policy The adoption leave policy of the company allows a six-week leave at a stretch, which gives its employees ample time to complete the legalities, and care for the child. On the other hand, its full-time employees also get five days paternity leave, which can be availed at a stretch within a duration of three months. “We are also flexible in providing emergency leave or option to work remotely (when feasible) to ensure that the associates (employee) can care for their loved ones. We have also tied up with 48 childcare centres in Hyderabad and Pune. The employees can also get a reimbursement of up to Rs 2,000 per month. We finalised the child care centres after on-ground research by the company and associate feedback. Optimum coverage in the cities was considered while finalising the centres,” Vipul Singh, vice-president and head of hr and communications, ADP Pvt. Ltd, told THE WEEK.

Similarly, technology learning company Pluralsight provides unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO) to all its employees across the globe, allowing its team members to support and be with their families when the need arises. “We believe our employees should take care of important matters in their personal lives, and an open PTO policy makes it possible to accommodate the individual needs of our employees as they arise. As part of this policy, we also offer flexible arrangements to all employees expecting a new child, and pay full salaries for 100 per cent of the days that expecting moms and dads take for parental leave which is in compliance with the maternity leave policies advocated by the Government of India,” said Arun Rajamani, Country GM, Pluralsight India.

Through its unlimited PTO policy the company feels that employees can take care of ill children, can create memories on a family vacation or something completely different. It’s really up to the employee. “We aim to create an environment with zero boundaries and we believe opportunity should be evenly distributed. When it comes to gender boundaries, we work to eradicate them through inclusive benefits and culture initiatives. We are currently focused on developing an initiative that will introduce several advocacy groups, with special focus on women, minority and other groups-designed to provide a space for all of our employees to support each other in scenarios where they need guidance or advice,” adds Rajamani.

Internet Consulting company Indus Net Technologies believes in encouraging their employees to take planned break from work so that they can rejuvenate themselves. It provides paternity leave benefits to its male employees and all its male employees having a baby are eligible for paternity leave of two days subject to two confinements during the service period. This leave is to be taken within one month from the birth of child.

“We understand the special feeling of becoming a father, and in order to contribute and help our employees enjoy this phase of life, we encourage them to avail the paternity leave. Research says dads who spent more time with their kids right after they are born, are more likely to be involved in their care in the years to follow. This takes care of the personal challenges they face, provide support to family and thus result in more productivity,” remarked Abhishek Rungta, Founder and CEO, Indus Net Technologies.

Ameera Shah, managing director and promoter, Metropolis Healthcare Ltd, feels that gender equality at workplace is an important factor to sustain employee morale and ensure employee satisfaction. “We at Metropolis take this seriously. While a female employee does get a longer maternity leave than her male colleagues, we have a number of policies extending the same understanding towards men. Two of these policies that have worked out the best are flexi timings and work from home. Besides a stipulated number of paternity leaves, we offer our employees a flexible work schedule based on the rotating shift system. This helps them coordinate their family’s schedule better and maintain a good work-life balance. Where possible, we also have work-from-home and remote-work options for employees in case of emergencies,” says Shah.

He believes that raising a child is the responsibility of both the parents and working women are often made to feel guilty about leaving their children in daycare to pursue a career. A new father, on the other hand, receives empathy about all the sacrifices he has to make for the family. “Most men experience the same guilt and helplessness (of a woman) at not being able to spend time with their children and missing out on landmark moments. The only difference is, when they express these thoughts, the same society that judges the woman tells the man to ‘toughen up and deal with it’ and ‘your kids will thank you one day for all the luxury’. I believe giving men an equal chance to help out at home and support their wives is instrumental in maintaining positive mental health and happiness. It also reduces personal conflict and stress, hence making them more focused and dedicated while they are at work. Breaking gender stereotypes, sensitising the community, and setting a good example in the process is just an added benefit,” added Shah. This health care company strongly believes in gender-neutral policies and has a gender balance in its workforce, too, where 55 per cent of its employees are women.

Spirits company United Spirits Ltd (USL), too, has paternity and sabbatical policies for its employees. “Diversity and inclusivity agenda is an executive priority for us with specific diversity goals, actions and milestones in place, sponsored by the CEO and the leadership team. Currently, senior women leaders occupy key C-Suite positions in various departments such as legal, finance, marketing, communications, HR and sales. We continue to scout for meritorious diverse talent that reflects the consumer demographic profile,” said Steve Correa, EVP and Head, Human Resources, United Spirits.

A large IT firm such as HCL has ensured that all its policies and programmes are gender neutral in the organisation. “Our leave policies are designed irrespective of the gender. All our facilities, including in-house day care centres are accessible to all employees. We recognise that every employee needs time off from work to ensure work-life balance—for meeting various other needs, social obligations or personal exigencies. The organisations today believe in providing facilities to each and every employee, which enables them to work in a cohesive environment,” said an HCL spokesperson.

The company also runs many peer mentoring and coaching programmes internally, which are open to all its employees. “While on one hand we have some gender programmes sponsored by male leaders, on the other, we have women who promote a gender sensitive and inclusive work place across the globe through women connect sessions,” added the HCL spokesperson.

Similarly, Creditseva, a company in the credit management space, has also got some flexible practices for its employees. It has flexible working hours and a relaxed dress code to not let it become a source of stress. “We have even identified child day care facilities within a three-km radius from the office, which the employees use in emergencies. The company has also addressed workplace gender equality by giving people equal access to rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of gender and have also ensured that feedback sessions are conducted at regular intervals to ensure that the team has a positive environment. At the same time we have also ensured that proper performance assessment metrics are adhered to regardless of gender and demographics,” said Satya Vishnubhotla, CEO, Creditseva. 

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