Why Not All Parental Leaves Are Made the Same

One tool companies use in their quest to attract and retain tech professionals is family leave: providing paid time off for new mothers and fathers – whether they’re having children by birth or through adoption – to recover from medical issues and get acquainted with the new member of their family.

new momBut not all paid leaves are created equal. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employees are allowed to take up to 12 weeks off without pay for the birth of a child, adoption or other family issue without fear of losing their job. However, the key word here is “paid.” When it comes to paying for at least some of the leave, the approach can vary widely even within the same company.

Inequitable Benefits

Birth mothers at tech companies tend to score more paid parental leave than birth dads, according to a report in Mother Jones. For example, Microsoft and Pinterest offer 12 weeks of paid leave for new moms – three times more than they do for fathers. Yahoo and Twitter, meanwhile, pony up roughly twice as much paid leave for mothers.

But it isn’t just fathers who get short shrift when it comes to paid parental leave. Adoptive parents, too, receive less time than birth mothers.

Adoptive Birth Moms and Dads Chart

At least in part, birth mothers receive more leave because of the physical toll childbirth can have on their bodies. Companies also seem sensitive to the difference in recovery time needed between a normal delivery and a Caesarean, often allowing more time for women who needed to have the procedure.

In New York, California and New Jersey — which all have state disability laws in place for family leave — birth mothers are typically provided six weeks off for a normal delivery but eight weeks for a C-section, says Bruce Elliott, benefits and compensation manager for the Society for Human Resource Management. Although these benefits tend not to cover a person’s salary 100 percent, employers will often make up the difference.

Adoption and Dads

In some cases, companies give adoptive parents a longer leave time than birth fathers. Accenture, for example, provides four weeks of leave for those parents, compared to one week for new birth fathers, according to a Working Mother survey. Cisco, on the other hand, doesn’t provide any paternity leave for fathers, but does allow four weeks for parents who are adopting.

“If companies have a paid maternity and paternity leave, they will often extend it to adoptive parents,” Elliott says. “Some companies will also offer up to a set amount to reimburse for legal adoption fees or logistical fees like traveling to another country to adopt.”

When it comes to maternity, paternity and adoption benefits, Silicon Valley is on the generous side because the competition to attract and retain tech professionals is so strong, Elliott says. Citing Google as an example, he notes that the company, “has one of the best family leave policies, with 100 percent salary paid in full and all kinds of baby perks to make the re-entry to work as seamless as it can be.”

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