Depending on where you are in the world, parental leave benefits can either be thorough and accommodating or almost non-existent. For example, in Norway mothers are allotted up to 35 weeks of full pay or 45 weeks of 80 percent pay and fathers may take up to 10 weeks of parental leave.
In the US, because such policies are not mandatory parental leave laws are not as widespread; and compensation during time away from work is ultimately decided by the respective company. Some establishments are willing to provide between two and five days of compensated leave during birth to avoid scrutiny and backlash from employees, which is usually not enough for most parents.
In the past decade, such dissimilarities in policy implementation has caused a variety of different reactions and trends to form.
Global parental leave trends shaping today’s workforce
Offering parental leave does not necessarily lead to more adults taking the rare opportunity to spend time with their newborn. Many people assume that in the US, where over 88 percent of private sector employees don’t have access to paid leave options, parental leave packages are highly coveted and adults who qualify are eagerly monitoring the number of work days left in their calendar. But according to a report from The Seattle Times, this is not the case.
For individuals with access to parental leave, “fewer than half” have the confidence (or feel comfortable) taking off work under the policy. When asked why, over 33 percent of males and females feel that parental leave could expose them to instability in their jobs, suggesting that it could get them fired or decrease their chances of getting a promotion. Furthermore, a whopping 57 percent of males mentioned that participating in parental leave could be viewed as “being less committed” to their work.
The report’s findings indicate that businesses implementing parental leave policies may need to setup an encouraging environment for adults to take such opportunities. This can be done by creating career advancement plans for parents on leave who are preparing to commence work, or by setting an example through managers taking parental leave, which could make other individuals in the office feel comfortable about the practice.
Getting Fired on Parental Leave
The idea of getting fired on parental leave sounds horrific. But could it really happen? And is it a common practice that businesses are quietly engaging in? To answer the first question, yes it could happen; and the unthinkable has, to Michelle Tan, ex-editor in chief of Seventeen Magazine. Tan was recently let go during maternity leave, despite being a productive employee and making large contributions to the teen publication.
Ryan Park, a lawyer from Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP who focuses on employment law, confirmed that while one can get fired on parental leave, there are several laws in place (such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act) that makes it incredibly difficult for businesses to resort to such actions.
Adults can also sleep better at night knowing that firing employees during parental leave is uncommon. One of the main reasons why businesses are interested in retaining employees on parental leave is due to expensive rehiring and retraining fees. Simply put, it would actually cost less to offer paid leave packages to existing, loyal workers, than to replace them.
Sweden’s Parental Leave Standards
Out of all the countries in the world with parental leave regulations, Sweden has implemented the most accommodating set of laws surrounding the special time off. Parents based in the country are entitled to 480 days of paid leave for each child (yes, it’s possible to accumulate leaves for multiple children). This right covers both newborns and adopted children, as well as extends to unemployed adults who meet the policy’s criteria for paid parental leave.
Under the guidelines, parents are allowed to take leaves until their child is eight years old. After completing the allotted 480 days, Swedish citizens have the option to “reduce their normal working hours by up to 25 percent until the child turns eight.” While raising the child, the government issues monthly allowances amounting to roughly $125 (SEK 1,050) until the age of 16.
“Without paternity leave, dads face a major hurdle in being equal partners at home and without maternity leave, or limited access to it, women may end up having to make a choice between their academic career and having children, which should not be the case,” said Andreas Vilhelmsson, a first-time parent based in Sweden.