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<i>Dear Workforce</i> How Could We Develop Policies for Paternity Leave

July 2, 2004
Dear Right Thing:

The most useful employee benefits:
1. Help make the employee more productive
2. Distinguish the employer competitively in the labor market
The two-week paid paternity leave you're considering would probably satisfy the first requirement and certainly the second.
The potential problem is that the vast majority of employees in your company--those who don't have babies--may feel disenfranchised by a benefit that extends to some, by virtue of family choices, but not to others.
The best way to know is to simply go out and ask your people, individually. You won't get a unanimous reaction, but you'll get a pretty clear idea of the sentiments of the group as a whole. All we're saying is that you shouldn't operate in the dark. You've got a whole company that can help guide the establishment of a policy that works for as much of the company as possible.
Simply having the time off (with or without pay) will make Dad more productive when he returns. If the leave is paid, the marginal productivity potential goes up. Most workers reserve their best effort for managers they feel care about them as individuals. A paid paternity leave provides the company with a tangible way to demonstrate that kind of caring.
Even one week of paid paternity leave would certainly create a competitive distinction in the labor market. According to the Families and Work Institute, only 13 percent of employers with more than 100 employees offer any paid paternity leave at all. Among the notables that do are KPMG, Timberland, Merrill Lynch and Eli Lilly, which offer from one to two weeks of paid time. In the United States, employers that offer more than two weeks' paid paternity leave are extremely rare.
FMLA provides up to 12 weeks without pay. A reasonable paternity-leave policy that goes beyond the FMLA's provision sets employers apart from their competitors in the quest for talent. That benefit can only become more valuable in the future. Is one week enough? Are two weeks too many? You won't know unless you ask.
Whatever you decide, establish a policy that applies consistently to all male employees, whether biological, adoptive or foster fathers. And make sure it doesn't come with an unspoken assumption that those who take advantage of it are less committed to their careers than others.
SOURCE:Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette, co-authors, Contented Cows Give Better Milk, August 20, 2003.
LEARN MORE: Read an opinion about Discrimination Against Dads.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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