Mark Zuckerberg announced Friday, via a Facebook post, that he will be taking two months of paternity leave when his daughter is born. Facebook, as well as several other large tech companies, such as Netflix, Adobe Systems Inc., Microsoft—and even accounting firm, Ernst & Young—have offered paid maternity and paternity leave for employees who choose to have children, well beyond the twelve weeks of unpaid leave required by law. Being that Facebook has been a cutting edge company on many fronts, it really is no surprise that CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, would choose to lead the way by taking paternity leave himself:
“Priscilla and I are starting to get ready for our daughter’s arrival. We’ve been picking out our favorite childhood books and toys. We’ve also been thinking about how we’re going to take time off during the first months of her life. This is a very personal decision, and I’ve decided to take 2 months of paternity leave when our daughter arrives. Studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, outcomes are better for the children and families. At Facebook we offer our US employees up to 4 months of paid maternity or paternity leave which they can take throughout the year. Every day things are getting a little more real for us, and we’re excited to start this next stage in our lives.”
Currently, the Family Medical Leave Act provides for:
“…eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Eligible employees are entitled to twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:
- the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
- the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement”
Taking maternity leave has long been an issue for women because of the disruption-of-career factor. Now, with a growing trend of companies, not only offering paid maternity leave, but also, paid paternity leave, some are concerned that men will now face the same long-term effects on their careers of lower pay and being passed over for promotions, should they choose to actually take paternity leave.
And of course, there is also the issue that many families face of temporarily reduced income if the company they work for does not offer paid maternity/paternity leave. However, forcing small companies to give paid maternity/paternity leave could result in the reduction of jobs due to the financial strain that would impose on those companies.
While there is a growing trend among larger companies to offer paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, there are many smaller or family-owned companies that may not be able to offer such lucrative benefits to employees. Offering this type of benefit is, of course, attractive to millennials, who will possibly be able to take advantage of the shift in the direction of more family-friendly benefits. So how can small or family-owned businesses compete and be able to attract millennials to whom this would be important, when offering such a benefit could be very costly to a small company? Making sweeping laws or changes to implement mandatory paid leave is not the right choice here. Small and family-owned companies need to be incentivized to offer benefits, not punished or fined for not offering benefits—this could come through tax credits or additional deductions for small businesses to help off-set the costs.
While it is easy to look at Mark Zuckerberg and think, of course he can take paternity leave, after all, he has plenty of money and he is the boss… it truly speaks to the overall bigger narrative of helping to socially remove the stigma from women, or men, who choose to take time off work when they have children. Zuckerberg, being a highly recognizable figure and successful CEO, is leading the way by example, showing that family is a priority and it is ok to make the choice to take time off work. Hats off to you, Mr. Zuckerberg.
What do you think? Should more companies offer paid maternity and paternity leave? Join the discussion by commenting below.
To read more of Gina’s writing on finance and family, check out her blog, Money Savvy Living, or follow her on Facebook // Twitter // Pinterest // Instagram