Societal attitudes about parental leave and work-life balance are shifting. Even larger law firms are starting to change their policies. I am lucky enough to work for an employer with a very generous paid parental leave policy, and I have been impressed by the positive impact it has had on our family. Getting that time with our newborn has really helped our family make the transition to a two-kid household. And it’s not just me. The benefits of parental leave for dads are fairly well documented.
Growing up, the only folks I ever saw taking time off for a new child were women who had just given birth. My own father wasn’t even at the hospital when I popped out. He was, as you might expect, at work. In fact when our first child was born about four years ago, my current employer didn’t even yet have a paid parental leave policy. And while the Family Medical Leave Act does guarantee new parents some time off, nothing in the statute says it has to be paid. And that can make all the difference, especially when that parent is the primary income source.
In some ways, paid leave for parents is just the beginning. As the recent Google memo demonstrates, just having a policy on the books does not always translate into actual support for employees taking leave. There needs to be a culture that supports and encourages parents to use the time off when it is available. It will be interesting to see how these policies continue to evolve.