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Organizations Need To Help Men Feel Comfortable Taking Parental Leave

By Rob Starr, Big4.com Content Manager

In an online poll of 1,000 employed American adults with employer benefits, Deloitte found  fewer than half of the respondents feel they work in an environment in which men are comfortable taking parental leave. As well,  64 percent of those surveyed say companies should offer men and women equal amounts of parental leave. Deepa Purushothaman, National Managing Director of WIN at Deloitte, explains.

Why are men less comfortable taking parental leave according to the research?

The research gave some insight into this. Not only do more than one-third of respondents feel that taking parental leave would jeopardize their position, but among them, more than half of men (57 percent) feel that taking leave would be perceived as a lack of commitment to the job, and 42 percent of men feel that they would lose opportunities on projects. We believe that policy enough is not alone. Work culture and norms also need to evolve.

How do perceptions of equality come into play when it comes to parental leave?

While an overwhelming majority of the workers surveyed – 64 percent – say that companies should offer men and women the same amount of parental leave, more than half of respondents (54 percent) feel their colleagues would judge a father who took the same amount of parental leave as a mother – potentially indicating a reinforcement of stereotypical gender norms.

Where does parental leave rank when compared to other job attributes?

The survey respondents indicated that there aren’t too many job perks that they’d prefer more than strong parental leave policy. Fifty percent said they would choose a pay raise instead of more parental leave. But few other benefits came as close to competing with parental leave – not even having a better boss (8 percent), a better title (6 percent), or a shorter commute (4 percent). Fifteen percent said they’d prefer more parental leave than any other benefit suggested including more pay, more vacation time, and shorter work hours.

How do these notions fit into larger well-being at work issues? 

Family needs put pressure on an employee’s ability to manage their obligations at work and at

Deepa Purushothaman

Deepa Purushothaman

home, and the survey respondents seem to say not only do they want policies that help them manage these competing priorities, they want to feel secure about taking advantage of those benefits. Strong policies are great, but work environment matters just as much. Businesses should cultivate a culture where people feel comfortable doing what it takes to be their best selves and honor their priorities — at work and at home. This also ties to a larger caregiving focus companies need to address to help their workers.

What needs to be done?

A deeper examination of culture is key. Taking care of family is a revered social value, and everyone at all levels of an organization has a part to play in supporting those who do. The tone comes from the top through clear leadership messages and modeled behavior. When male leaders take and encourage parental leave, it empowers others to do the same. Transparent conversation among coworkers and celebrating time spent focusing on family also go a long way toward eliminating stigma around parental leave. HR professionals and teammates can also work together to help people transition smoothly from parental leave back to work. In some work settings, there might also need to be an honest review of systemic factors that directly or indirectly penalize those who take time to focus on family or reward those who work to the detriment of their personal life.  We all need to care about this and we need to make changes because it is the right thing for our people, our businesses, and society as a whole.

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