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Economic Times: Companies go liberal in giving time off to new dads

September 21, 2017

BENGALURU/NEW DELHI: On Monday, Mark Zuckerberg announced the birth of his second child, August. While the Facebook founder takes two months of paternity leave to spend time with his newborn daughter, closer home some companies in India are working towards strengthening their paternity leave policies beyond the token gesture of a handful of days.

In March this year, Ikea launched its six-month parental policy for both female and male employees, giving women an opportunity to rejoin sooner after the birth of a child but also encouraging men to take more responsibility at home.

At the furniture major’s office in India, for men to be eligible for the parental leave, it is mandatory that their spouses have gone back to work. The Swedish company’s policy is also applicable to surrogates, single parents and adoptions. Right now, one male employee is about to go on a parental leave in the coming months.

Earlier this year, Microsoft India extended its paternity leave to six weeks from two, with the leave allowance covering also fatherhood through adoption. Cummins India set a new benchmark among manufacturing firms by raising its paternity leave to one month. In India, central government employees are entitled to 15 days off, but there are no provisions for paternity leave in the labour law for private sector workers. Still, many companies have adopted liberal policies to support men to take care of their newborns.

Mercer India, a consulting leader in talent, health, retirement and investments, has seen the percentage of organisations providing paternity leave rise from about 60% in 2014 to 75% in 2016. “Many companies provide as little as five days, but some are going the extra mile with time off for employees who become fathers,” said Kangan Shekhar, principal of rewards consulting and benefits product at Mercer India.

According to the consulting firm’s Global Parental Report last year, India is among the top 10 countries with the highest percentage of companies providing paternity and adoption leaves above the statutory requirement in the world. Last year, Juniper Networks’ India Excellence Centre, which provides R&D support to the Sunnyvale, California-headquartered corporation, extended its paternity leave from 8-9 days to 16 weeks, which employees can take within the first two years of a child’s birth. ..

“We allow employees to take this time off in up to four separate tranches, if needed,” said Harini Muralidharan, senior director of HR at Juniper. Almost a hundred employees have made use of this leave so far, and the organisation is actively taking feedback on the utilisation to make more policy changes. Cloud computing company Salesforce rolled out a paternity leave policy in May this year, allowing new fathers 26 weeks of paid leave if they are the primary caregiver. If they are the secondary caregiver, they get 12 weeks.

New fathers — as well as mothers — also get paid a ‘baby bonus’ at the time of the birth or adoption of a baby. “A strong paternity policy helps in addressing work-life conflicts which are a reality for both men and women after the birth of a baby. More importantly, we want to encourage people in India to talk about paternity leave,” said Jnanesh Kumar, director of employee success at Salesforce India.

Tesco Bengaluru’s policy offers paid leave of two weeks. In case the male employee is the primary caregiver of the child, he is entitled to 26 weeks of paid leave. At Schneider Electric, male employees get two weeks of paternity leave, which can be extended up to four weeks. But those requesting the extension are required to share how they plan to contribute at home.

Rachna Mukherjee, chief human resources officer of Schneider, said: “I find it heartening to see that the current generation of men who are taking this time off have a full plan as how they want to spend time with their baby.” On the lower side, IBM India employees can avail of paternity leave up to five days within 120 days of the birth or adoption of a child. At Mondelez India, new dads get 10 days.

Additionally, its changed parent policy is gender agnostic, which allows all primary caregivers irrespective of gender to avail of the six months of leave, but only if the father is the primary caregiver,will he get six months off.

Male employees at Sapient India are also entitled to 10 days of paternity leave, a change from their previous policy that allowed five days. TVS Motor gives six days of paternity leave, to be taken anytime during the duration of one month prior to or after the date of delivery or adoption of the child, split into intervals if required.

Tata Steel, which had introduced 10 days of paternity leave less than two years ago, has since seen 560 young fathers availing of the leave. “Corporates and the government have a great responsibility to recognise the changing roles of employees as both partners play a participative and active role,” R Anandakrishnan, senior vice-president of HR and IT at TVS Motor, told ET.

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