In November, just after his child’s birth, Mark Zuckerberg decided to take parental leaves to take care of his new baby, Max. By being off on a two-month leave, Facebook CEO was seen as a symbol for the working dads.
Indeed, the firm stands apart from a majority of companies regarding his parental leave policy. In fact Facebook offers up to four months of parental leaves to his employees! This is, obviously, far more than the nation average. But this kind of policy has to be seen as an example. Why?
Amercian workers fear to take parental leaves
The USA is the only industrialized country that does not require paid time off for new mothers and dads. According to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you have the right to take parental leaves. But those very leaves will not be mandatorily paid by your firm! Moreover this policy only applies to companies employing more than 50 persons and you must have more than 12 months of seniority.
From then on, it is up to the companies to decide whether they want to offer paid leaves or not. According to a study made by the Society for Human Resource Management, only 21 percent of businesses interviewed offered maternity paid leaves in 2015, while they were merely 17% to offer a paid paternity leave. However, the report underlined that fathers tended to take only 7.5 days off on an average of 6 weeks of given paid parental leaves. In fact a majority of men do not use all their vacation that they are offered! Why?
That is due to the fact that they are afraid of taking it. Indeed working dads are more reluctant than working moms to take parental leaves because of two reasons. The first one is the fear of jeopardizing their careers by being off from work. The second one is the anxiety of being loathed and rejected by its colleagues. We can also add a further reason, namely that working dads can fear what their boss thinks about them.
Working parents need greater symbols
A Norwegian study showed that men tended to take parental leave more easily if their co-workers or brothers did too! Indeed that reassures them. But that is not enough. When Netflix CEO launched a new parental leave policy which implied unlimited vacations, he was surprised to see that no employee took it. Actually he was not really surprised but rather satisfied, since he exactly knew that his salaries were not meant to take an unlimited leave! And that this due to the same reasons aforementioned: the fear of hurting one’s career, of being resented by one’s colleagues and one’s boss. That was a blessing in disguise.
Working dads – but working moms too – need greater symbols. They need to take care of their newborn without being afraid of putting at risk their career. That is why Zuckerberg’s two months off were considered as a great symbol for all workers. By showing that even the most powerful CEOs could take four-month leaves for their child, Mark Zuckerberg has permitted at least to thwart the image of parental leaves. Indeed he showed that they are not shameful but necessary for working das and moms.
Let us hope that other CEOs will follow the example of Zuckerberg.
Inspired by the Guardian
Étudiant à l'École de Management de l'Institut Mines-Télécom.
Consultant en communication freelance.