Maternity leave is a crucial time for mother and newborn to bond, but many employers don’t allow fathers the same workplace benefit. That is changing.
International law firm, Winston & Strawn, and Etsy, the online marketplace, are the latest firms to join Twitter, Facebook, Netflix, Change.org, Reddit, Bank of America, Patagonia, Coca Cola and even the Catholic Church in offering so-called gender-neutral parental leave policy.
Gender-neutral grants the same leave time and benefits regardless of the parents’ gender. Last month, Winston & Strawn announced a “new gender-neutral parental leave program” that gives all its U.S.-based associates and of counsel attorneys up to 20 weeks of paid parental leave regardless of gender.
“These changes are ultimately about human capital,” Julie Goodman, Winston’s chief human resources officer said in a release. “We want to attract and retain the most talented people and promote their success for the long term, regardless of gender.”
After updating its Biglaw parental leave database last year, Above The Law found that “on average, women lawyers received 14.33 weeks of paid maternity leave, while male lawyers receive 6.3 weeks of paid paternity leave, less than half of what their female counterparts receive.” Above The Law has called for large law firms to step up, stating that “male attorneys were being stigmatized for taking parental leave time.”
The Winston & Strawn gender-neutral policy applies to parental leave for childcare and “parent-child bonding,” the firm notes in its release. It can be broken up for two different times within the newborn’s first year. “Parents are not required to designate themselves as primary or non-primary caregivers–a distinction that may not reflect the needs and experience of individuals in two-career households,” the firm further notes.
A new parental leave transition support program also will provide lawyers a parental leave liaison to help with preparing and returning from leave, confidential career coaching and allowances for billable hour targets to be “adjusted to aid in the transition,” according to the firm.
In March, Etsy announced an enhanced gender-neutral policy that provides 26 weeks of paid leave that its employees can use within two years after becoming a parent, Fortune reports.
In a blog post, Juliet Gorman, Etsy’s director of culture and engagement, noted that the firm’s CEO, Chad Dickerson, could only take five weeks of paternity leave after he and his wife adopted their son four years ago as per company policy at the time. But the reality for most employees in the U.S. private sector is that only 12% receive any kind of paid family leave, Fortune notes.
Twitter recently announced a new global, gender-neutral parental leave program that provides for 20 weeks full pay for full-time employees and is “open to those who become parents by birth, surrogacy or adoption, which means no more in-built assumptions about the parents-to-be,” The Guardianreports.
Twitter implemented the policy last month for its U.S.-based workers and plans to expand it to all full-time workers by July 1. In April, Coca-Cola said it would enhance its paid parental leave policy for its more than 40,000 U.S. employees by offering six weeks of paid leave to men and women and adoptive and foster parents, Fast Companyreports.
The policy takes effect Jan. 1, 2017 and the company credits a group of young employees, the Coca-Cola Millennial Voices, for inspiring the change. And last month, the U.S. Archdiocese of Chicago announced that it would provide 12 weeks of parental leave for mothers and fathers starting July 1, Catholic New World reports.
Under the old policy, staff was allowed six-months leave, but they were not paid during that time. “Including fathers under the new policy grew out of discussion from the human resources committee of the archdiocesan finance council about what it means to be church today in a world that is increasingly less family-friendly,” the story notes.