For Tech Dads, Is Paternity Leave Risky? - InformationWeek

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11/14/2014
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For Tech Dads, Is Paternity Leave Risky?

Tech culture prizes long hours at the office. How does that influence new fathers when it comes to family leave?

Earlier this week, The New York Times published a detailed story about the career risks men face when they take paternity leave to help care for a newborn child.

As the story reports, "Taking time off for family obligations… could have long-term negative effects on a man's career -- like lower pay or being passed over for promotions."

This isn't meant to garner sympathy for men; after all, women have had to face this risk -- and suffer real consquences -- for ages. But it got me wondering about the tech industry and whether there's a stigma associated with family leave.

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Tech culture tends to celebrate long hours at the office, whether it's unsnarling a gnarly network configuration until 2:00 a.m., or a coding marathon that stretches over multiple days. One implication of this culture is that people who don't put in Olympian hours might be regarded as less valuable to the organization.

Thus, while companies might have explicit policies that make paternal or family leave available -- and federal law requires that companies with 50 or more employees provide at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave for events such as childbirth and adoption -- internal culture might influence men to take just a small portion of it, if any at all.

(Image: Wikipedia)
(Image: Wikipedia)

This isn't a problem just in the tech industry, but in the workplace overall. According to the NYT story, almost two thirds of men who took time off from work after a child's birth took a week or less. That's unfortunate, because the story suggests that the more that men become involved in child care, the more positive effect it will have on women.

The article cites a statistic from the Institute for Labor Market Policy Evaluation, which is in Sweden, that for every month of leave a father takes, the mother's "future earnings increased an average of 7 percent."

The same tech culture that makes hours worked into a status marker might also be trying to change attitudes toward paternity leave. The NYT article notes that Facebook offers four months of paid family leave and profiles a male Facebook exec who took the entire time. However, the article also notes that, although a majority of female employees at Facebook will take the full leave, most male employees only take a portion.

Do you believe there's a stigma associated with family leave? If you were offered paid leave for childbirth or adoption, did you take the maximum available amount? If so, did you notice any repercussions when you returned to the office (aside from a mountain of unanswered email)?

If you were offered leave but didn't take full advantage, why not? Does your company culture support family leave? Would you support a colleague or employee who wanted the time off?

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Drew is formerly editor of Network Computing and currently director of content and community for Interop. View Full Bio
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markweb
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markweb,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/4/2015 | 9:03:22 AM
Re: no stigma to having a family
I'm in the UK, and in many ways the problems or additional costs that arise from Paternity and Maternity are a problem that grows by the day, I have a customer who currently employs in excess of 20000 programmer's worldwide, he is based in the UK and he told me that only the way he can stay ahead of the game is to employ programmers in Asia.

He said that it's not so much the programming labour cost that makes the difference because work is carried out based on quotes but the extra's such as paternity and maternity on top of PAYE and NI, lump that lot to together and 30% + needs to be added to a quote, he said that in most cases will mean that his company will not be given the work.

His solution is worrying, he employs less than 10% of his workforce in the UK and the rest in countries that either pay much less or no maternity or paternity, I'm really not sure how you reverse this trend because programming is very much price driven but if countries like the UK and USA don't do something the fastest growing industry in the world today will be all done 'all bar' the shouting elsewhere.

So return to your original point, is paternity risky? I would say absolutely yes, perhaps not directly because the law says they can't, but it is very likely to lead to redundancy or at best new jobs will be created locally because your job can be done cheaper abroad.

This problem does not just effect our industry, manufacturing in many industries has slowly moved abroad over the last 40 years, I believe that because most programming work can be moved as quick as an email can be sent, is potentially the biggest problem that UK and USA face today.
Willpower99
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Willpower99,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/7/2015 | 6:52:39 PM
Re: The choice and consequence is always ours
In the best of circumstances having a child is a choice, but as adults we also should recognize that in some, hopefully few cases children are an unintended consequence of a mature recreational activity. I'm not here to suggest any moral opinion of what should happen in such cases.

To your argument most companies offer AD&D & health insurance. Should that also company provided insurance exclude coverage for risky activities that employees enjoy such as motorcycling, auto racing, skydiving, and scuba diving activities to reduce premiums? Even though I don't participate in those activities I would argue no. Why? Because those activities make certain employees happy just as having children does. If I understand your argument, one could also make the case for eliminating employer paid vacation all together. Want time off to enjoy your hobbies? Take the time off without pay.

I think the argument should be re-framed in terms of more time off for special life challenges, whether it be to care for a newborn, adopted child, ill parent or severe illness (such as cancer) of the employee. Those who work more should and likely will be rewarded anyway with higher compensation and titles.
cduggan804
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cduggan804,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/3/2014 | 8:20:10 PM
The choice and consequence is always ours
I'm surprised at the number of people who seem to think that paternity/maternity leave is something to be borne by the company for whom they work. The company didn't choose to have a child, so why should the burden fall to the company to support that precious life? Maternity leave has its roots in allowing the mother time to recover from the birth. More recently, we see the value to society in allowing time for the parents to bond with the child and, certainly, it aids in mom's speedier recovery to have dad's help at home as well. However, societal benefits of parental bonding aside, it is not an employer's responsibility to fund an employee not to work--it is an employer's responsibility to remain a viable place to work, to stay solvent, and to continue to be able to provide a steady paycheck and meet its obligations to all its employees and stakeholders. We all make choices all through our adult lives. Parental responsibilities include choosing the commitment to stay at home and sometimes take a financial hit for the greater benefit to our family, if that's necessary. Just like choosing not to go on vacation and put money into a college fund; it's not always what we want to do, but what we need to do.

The choices and consequences will vary by our individual environments, but they are always ours.
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 7:03:35 AM
Re: Primary income earner tends to worry more
I don't think such practices would change unless the Congress passes a bill in the Assembly. The government makes money from all these companies from the taxes they pay. Easing up on the individual employee would mean decreased taxes which the government won't want. But I hope they ease up on the new fathers at least.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
11/23/2014 | 9:53:21 PM
Re: Primary income earner tends to worry more
@anon: I like how to describe "flex time" because not all copanies like to give complete leave especially if you are a working class (engineer, software designer, and none of the management class), but they can give a little bit flexibility to the dads who start at 9 and go to home at 7 in the evening. 
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2014 | 2:32:51 PM
Re: Primary income earner tends to worry more
I'm afraid that is what a private job means. You can have no time off. The working standards in the states are even more horrible. They even have so many less yearly holidays compared to the other countries. And finding out time for the family is necessary in order to live happy. The companies seem to feed the lust inside employees with more perks and better working conditions, not to mention a hiked pay, but all of this so that the employee spends most of his time in caring for the company.
anon9213443932
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anon9213443932,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2014 | 2:47:24 PM
Re: Primary income earner tends to worry more
I think its the making of the West particularly the United States now being convieniently expored to the "east". The stigma is a creation of sociental changes where some people think having or creating a family is not important. Its more so evident with some people bragging that they have not taken any vacation in couple of years! BTW, compaies seem to reward this kind of behavior by promotions and other perks....

I think Western "society" should demand this & incorporate not necesarily as "paternity" leave but in other forms like flex time etc. This will go a long way in building societies that are "responsible" and productive.

Otherwise its impossible to build that "equitable" society where both men and women are equally productive & develop "meaningful" cultures that god intended us to do!
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
11/20/2014 | 2:22:51 PM
Re: Primary income earner tends to worry more
I think that employers need to be supportive of both, mem and women, after the birth or adoption of a child. I think it is disgraceful that we have not become more supportive of emplyees in this area. Companies and employers are often notice in advance to make necessary arrangements to fill the void in the absence of the employee. It is sad that we are in a day and age where employees are scared about the consequences of taking time to bond with their new child.
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
11/20/2014 | 11:16:06 AM
Primary income earner tends to worry more
When I had my first my husband took a few weeks off (basically until it became non-paid leave). But the downside was that was billed as vacation time so he didn't have any in reserve. For him is was less about stigma and more about being the primary breadwinner having get back in there to earn the bread. One of his coworkers recently had his first and he wasn't planning on taking alot of time off. He didn't want anyone to think they could do without him for any length of time.

Regardless of what the laws say you can do there is a fear that after a longer term sabattical such as paternity leave some poeple may think they don't really need your position, or someone for your workload. Which means when the next round of cuts comes...  Men are still most oftem the primary income, especially directly after a birth, and more men are in It so I'm not suprised that there is some feeling of stigma associated with taking a long time off, especially if deadlines or layoffs are looming.

 
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
11/20/2014 | 8:54:01 AM
Re: no stigma to having a family
@susann, I just said what made most sense to me personally and seemed quite obvious. It seems there's ample scientific evidence backing our positioned here-www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1303395/Hormone-rush-turns-man-father.html & www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3943240/ we just need to embrace nature more maybe?
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