Paternity leave : From a business perspective

Is parental leave becoming increasingly for men? There is reason to think about it at a time when large companies such as Spotify and Amazon announce that they want to encourage paternity leave. While some people say it is progress toward more equality between men and women, others still see it as an obstacle. Some explanations.

Anecdotal for a long time, paternal leave is becoming  established as a new trend, especially in large groups. This summer, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and head of Facebook, said he wants to take two months leave when his child is born. He recalled that his company promotes parental leave offered to employees of both sexes up until the fourth month of leave during the year following the birth of their child. Spotify, the giant of streaming music, has done even better by offering all its employees six months’ parental leave paid at 100% of their salary, which can be split and taken up to the child’s third birthday. In a country where only 17% of companies offer paid paternal leave to their male staff, these announcements from major companies are a bit of a revolution.

Wayward Canadian legislation

For Canada, appropriate laws and business practices still seem to be a bit behind. Not only does paternity leave have a five-week maximum, but also and especially it is without pay. The same applies for parental leave, which can reach up to 70 weeks. Although the conditions hardly encourage employees to use it, the way it is viewed in the business world can also lead men to not take advantage of it. A Quebec study by the Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés (CROP-CRHA) analyzed the perception of paternity leave and parental leave by employees of Quebec companies. One of the main findings is the poor perception of such leave in the professional world.

Paternity leave frowned upon by 32% of management

The study conducted last May among 636 workers also showed that such leave is considered to be a career obstacle for men. 32% of those surveyed indicated that paternity leave is very poorly perceived by their management. Conversely, only 28% indicated a positive perception by their management. Only 12% of the colleagues of those surveyed took a negative view, compared to 56% who viewed it positively. With regard to parental leave, company management in one quarter of companies (26%) encourage it, according to the workers surveyed. However, close to one third (29%) disapprove of it. 54% of the colleagues of those surveyed view it sympathetically while 13% of employees look on it rather unfavourably. In either case, many more workers’ colleagues than company managers consider parental leave positively.

This poor image has its origins in the men themselves since somewhat less than half (47%) believe their career can be negatively affected if they take leave. Employers are very reluctant to have to compensate for the absence of a father who has taken paternity leave. They are much more likely to encourage the mother to take parental leave than the father.

A favourable reversal of the trend

Nonetheless, there is still hope. 53% of men surveyed believe that leave in no way interferes with their professional career. The trend is reversing favourably, with more and more men wanting to take advantage of it. On the other hand, although parental leave is viewed in a bad light by companies and by some employees, La Belle Province is far from being the worst off. It could even serve as a model nationally or even internationally when it comes to paternity leave. It is so far the only Canadian province that provides leave for the father in the law. It’s also the only one where companies provide balance between work and family life as well as a good match between the two, by arranging certain plans for fathers supplementary to those of the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan.


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