When Parag Agrawal, the new CEO of Twitter Inc, announced that he is taking a few weeks of paternity leave, and earlier Indian cricketer Virat Kohli took a similar break, it became the talk of the town, given their stature as public figures.
But increasingly paternity leave is becoming more acceptable at the workspace as firms look at gender equity. New parents express the need for such a break as nuclear families need them to be part of their new life, and a better work-life balance debate is gaining momentum.
Industry insiders and HR consultants also argue that paternity leave breaks the stereotype that childcare is only a responsibility of the mother, and helps in women returning to work later after a break.
While companies like Volvo, Zomato, Diageo India, Flipkart, Coca Cola India, Meesho and Razorpay have paternity policy already known, several companies are increasingly offering this paternity break or a gender-neutral parental leave to promote work-life balance.
“Paternity leave is becoming a norm. We are offering one week of paternity leave, which can then be extended by three more weeks via a policy called employee engagement leave,” said Pawan Alamchandani, global head, human resource at Vinculum Group, a technology firm in the retail SaaS solution space.
Alamchandani said of the 300 plus male colleagues he has in the company, between 15 to 20 of them are availing such a leave. He said a formal industry-wise policy will be more helpful as standardisation of paternity leave, like maternity leave, will help all. The duration of paternity leave can always be debated, but it’s a need and growing norm.
“Most of the families in urban India are nuclear and paternity leave helps families deal with parenthood better. I believe companies are realising that it’s a requirement,” he said.
Krishna Kumar, founder and chief executive of Edtech company Simplilearn, echoed the view and added that workspace is gradually becoming more gender neutral and paternity leave is a requirement. He said his firm gives one week of such leave to a new father.
Sonal Jain, enterprise HR head and head of HR, Consumer Health, Johnson & Johnson said "through our eight weeks long parental leave benefit we support our employees…the same is extended during the first year of parenthood so that one can bond with their little one, and share parenting responsibilities with their partner."
"This is not just limited to biological parents but we also offer the same benefit to adoptive parents,” Jain added.
SuperBottoms, a baby-care brand, said it has introduced two weeks of paid leave on this account. “The leave policy helps employees be present for their family, thereby increasing engagement at work. This policy is applicable for adoption and surrogacy too. And also same-sex parents can avail this benefit,” said Pallavi Utagi, founder of SuperBottoms.
Sonica Aron, the founder of HR consulting firm MarchingSheep said it has three key takeaways – one, men want to be equal partners in childcare; two, it will break stereotypes, and three, it would aid in creating an environment where women will find it more convenient to come back to work.
“But companies need to make sure and spell out that paternity leave won't hamper career growth, getting right assignments or the appraisal of male colleagues. It’s important that companies normalise paternity leave and make sure the unwritten stigma is not there,” Aron explained.
She added that firms such as Diageo and Zomato are offering longer parental breaks, which is a welcome move, and corporate leaders like Parag Agrawal and celebrities like Virat Kohli speaking about it is helping the cause.
For example, in July 2021, Diageo India announced a family leave policy, that “offers all eligible employees a 26-week parental leave, comprising all benefits and bonuses, irrespective of gender or sexual orientation. This policy takes into consideration surrogacy, adoption, and biological conception”.