When Facebook founder and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg announced his plans to take two months’ paternity leave following the birth of his daughter next year, the news received mixed reactions.
In one corner were the cynics who claimed that he is only able to do so due to his seniority and the high profile nature of his role. In the other, were those who applauded his decision.
Research has shown that fathers who take paternity leave are more likely to be more involved in their child’s life in the following years. In addition, the opportunity this affords for them to form a bond with their child at the earliest stage has been shown to aid the child’s cognitive development.
In the US, there is no legal requirement for employers to provide paid paternity leave for staff, making Zuckerberg’s decision even more notable. Facebook offers its staff four months’ paid paternity leave, positioning it as one of the leaders in this area.
Looking at the UK, where new fathers are entitled to paid paternity leave for the first two weeks of their child’s life, as well as having the ability to share parental leave with their partner during their baby’s first year, personally I would have expected more fathers to jump at the chance to do so. However, research by My Family Care last month found that just 2% of respondents have so far taken up the option to share parental leave.
The most common reasons we hear for this are:
- They cannot afford to take the drop in income.
- They are concerned about how it would be perceived by colleagues.
- They fear that bosses’ attitudes towards it will hinder their career progression.
Surely, then, senior figures leading by example, as Zuckerberg is doing, is a positive step?
If more bosses were to follow suit, I wonder if more employees might feel freer to take longer periods of paternity leave – or even to take any at all?