Are Tech Companies Ahead of the Curve on Parental Leave?

Major tech companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter have recently given generous parental leave to their employees. But is it economically easier for tech companies, which are predominantly male, to offer generous parental leave packages given men are less likely to take parental leave?

The recent release of the Kauffman Foundation’s Labor After Labor report highlights, along with the challenges mothers face, the lack of paternity leave taken in the United States. According to the paper, “among fathers, 96 percent return to work within two weeks of a child’s birth.” This is partially due to the lack of paid paternity leave in the United States. Only 10 to 15 percent of “U.S. employers offer paid paternity leave, almost all in white-collar professions.” Parental leave for both mothers and fathers is not just a women’s issue or a parent issue. It is an economic issue. If we want high labor force participation, to encourage economic growth and innovation, it is important to enact policies that help people remain in the workforce.

By comparison, Norway has implemented policy to encourage paternity leave.

“In Norway, in addition to parental leave that can be used by either parent, four weeks of parental leave is given for fathers’ use only to encourage fathers to take parental leave. Paternity leave rose from 3 percent to 35 percent almost immediately after this policy was implemented.”

Four U.S. based companies who have implemented generous parental leave policies have less than one-third of employees that are women.

A recent Bloomberg article suggests that tech companies are able to provide generous parental leave packages because “for these companies, progressive family leave comes at a relatively low price. It's cheaper to offer paid leave to a male-heavy workforce, because men tend to take less time off than new mothers.”

Interestingly, the article continues:

“Industries that traditionally attract female workers often don't have paid leave policies. In education-related occupations and office and administrative support positions, women make up about three-quarters of the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only 15 percent of teachers and 16 percent of office and administrative support workers get paid family leave.”

Are tech companies who are extending parental leave trying to help encourage men to take time off for their newborns? Or are tech companies able to get a pat on the back for progressive parental leave policies, knowing that their primarily male workforce won’t use the generous benefits?


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