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Last Updated : Jun 14, 2019 07:19 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Increased paternity leaves welcome but ensure they are utilised, say HR experts

Indian male employees still may not be fully ready to take six months of paternity leave due to fear of losing out in their careers, say hiring specialists.

M Saraswathy @maamitalks

Zomato was the first company in India to announce a 26-week parental leave. Till now, only women were allowed upto six months of maternity leave and the new fathers would get upto a week after child-birth.

While this has kicked off a series of debates on whether this will be sustainable, HR experts said that it is imperative to ensure that male employees use this facility.

Zomato, a food-delivery and restaurant discovery platform, took this HR decision to ensure gender balance at the workplace.

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Responding to a query from Moneycontrol, Zomato's spokesperson said that noticing that eight out of the top 10 people at Zomato are men, especially at the leadership level, the company knew that they had to do something to create gender balance.

“We decided to study our recruiting pipeline--only to realise that nine out of 10 candidates were also men. Even most of the senior people outside (in the market) are men and even if an organisation wants to focus on gender balance, it is almost impossible to do that because of the supply bias,” said the spokesperson.

The company studied the reasons for this bias, which was due to women leaving their jobs or putting their careers on the back burner after childbirth as the onus of taking care of the child fell solely on them. Zomato then narrowed down the cause to the lack of universal paid parental leave, in the hope that both parents can shoulder the responsibility of bringing up their child without the mother having to sacrifice her career.

“As a company which believes that women are as valuable as men, we decided to be the first ones to change this,” said the company. Being a firm with the average employee age of 26 years, Zomato would be one of the large internet companies with newly married staff or those planning a child in the near future.

In India, paternity leaves are usually one or two weeks. While organisations do offer extended paternity leaves for men during special circumstances, it is not a norm.

Kamal Karanth, co-founder of specialist staffing firm Xpheno said that culturally, men in Indian workplaces often fear losing out on the competitive advantage by being absent for a long duration.

“Enterprises may need real guts to offer this. If you take large IT firms in the services industry, they have a high percentage of male employees. Even with a 20 percent fall in the paternity leave-eligible category (28-40 years), this has a significant impact. But from an affordability point of view, this is not impossible, in my opinion. If the analysis is done properly, it will be seen that only a small percent of people will be eligible for this of which an even smaller chunk may avail of the benefit,” he added.

Rituparna Chakraborty, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President, TeamLease Services said that there is a definite need to increase the paternity leave period in India to ensure that both the parents are equally responsible for bringing up the child.

However she said that considering multiple-week paternity leaves are still a nascent concept in India, there should be an effective and efficient utilisation of this policy at the workplaces.

Apart from the fact that this will enable better HR practices, Karanth said that longer paternity leaves would also reduce employee acquisition cost due to better employer branding.

But how do they ensure that there is a minimal disruption at the workplace? Zomato's spokesperson said that they are banking on the workforce to choose what is best for the company and them.

“We have noticed that when you lift all kinds of constraints off of people, that’s when they do their best work,” added the spokesperson.

When asked whether the increased paternity leave could be availed by the company's delivery partner, the spokesperson said that currently, all Zomato delivery partners are contractors with the company. Depending on their performance and contractual tenure, Zomato is planning to take them on the roll as full-time employees. Once they are full-time employees,the policy will extend to them as well.

Among other companies, Pepsico India had launched 12 weeks paternity leave in December 2018. Here, an employee can avail paternity leave up to a maximum of two deliveries during his tenure of service. These leaves would also be applicable during adoption (for a baby up to 3 years of age) /surrogacy. So far, over 20 employees have utilised benefits of the paternity policy and have opted for it.

In May 2018, Diageo announced four weeks of paternity leave, apart from the 26 week maternity leave. The company also said that a significant number of Diageo’s businesses will move to 26 weeks fully paid paternity leave including North America, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Colombia, Venezuela, and Australia among others.

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First Published on Jun 14, 2019 07:18 pm
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