Benefits and Compensation, Talent

Offering Gender-Blind Parental Leave

Instead of differentiating between maternity leave and leave for new fathers, some companies are implementing gender-blind time off for new parents.

Source: GeorgeRudy / iStock / Getty

So reports The Wall Street Journal, which cites professional services firm Deloitte, financial services provider TIAA, and technology giant Cisco Systems as companies that have moved to a neutral policy.

Diverse Workforce

The idea, in part, is to give dads equal parenting status, as well as time to bond with a newborn child. At the same time, however, these policies seek to eliminate gender stereotypes as they relate to parenting.
Because LGBT couples also become parents, as do single people, employers are seeking to create policies that are inclusive.
Cisco is among the companies that have taken the lead on this issue. In rolling out its new leave policy, it refers to main and supporting caregiver, with an emphasis on gender-neutrality. Instead of focusing on gender, the new policy, which took effect Nov. 1, 2017, provides time off by caregiver category: 13 weeks for main caregivers, four weeks for supporting caregivers. Under the old policy, mothers received four weeks paid leave, while supporting caregivers, traditionally fathers, also received four weeks. Now, any parent can be considered a main caregiver.
Joe Cozzolino, senior vice president of services for Cisco, provided further details about the new policy in a November blog post:
“We’re expanding the minimum time off and support to parents who welcome a new child into their family, whether someone is having a baby, adopting, going through fertility treatments, or surrogacy. While the length of the leave varies from country to country, the minimum global leave for primary caregivers is 13 weeks, and supporting caregivers can take at least four weeks for bonding with the new child. And the program isn’t limited just to parents. We recognize that people are staying in the workforce longer, so grandparents in the Cisco community can also take a few days off to bond with a new grandchild. The program is effective now in United States, and then will be available globally in phases by country.”

Cultural Shift

While the move by Cisco and others represents a significant shift in benefits offerings, it remains to be seen whether new parents will now be viewed as main and supporting caregivers in the HR and larger world.
It’s worth noting that the Benefits and Perks page of Cisco’s careers site still refers to parental leave as “maternity and paternity support.”
Nevertheless, the important question is, will other companies adopt gender-blind parental leave policies? Given that fathers of recent generations have taken a more active role in parenting newborns, and that marriage equality is the law, it seems logical.
Still, when it comes to parental leave, change takes time. Parental leave for the adoption of a child was considered revolutionary until the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). And even today, some employers, such as retailer Dollar General, provide paid leave only for the birth of a child; Dollar General provides financial assistance to employees who are seeking to adopt.

Paula Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.