As we continue to move forward in a work-from-anywhere world, companies have an even greater responsibility to create an inclusive and equal workforce. The pandemic has also encouraged companies to reimagine traditional working practices over the years.
The future of work is shaping up to include a strong focus on diversity, equitable benefits, and fair policies for all. Companies today are striving to create a more equitable workplace culture, and gender neutral employee benefits are the norm. The norms that are staking a claim in the work culture have been ushered by the enlightenment among men and women alike that not only single-gender is entitled to care. It's more about setting up future policies that match the evolution of the roles of parenting.
Evolving parental roles
Traditionally, there is an inherent bias towards women being the primary caregiver to new-born. However, new parents now realise the shared responsibility of a father and mother in bringing up a child.
Unlike previous generations, gender-neutral, progressive parenting has become more prominent in the urban world. Millennial parents are now equally distributing domestic chores among themselves such that children aren't conformed to gender-specific roles.
Societal changes over the past few decades have broadened and blurred the roles that parents play with children, and proficiency in tasks of parenthood is now considered to be independent of gender. Previously neglected by researchers, fathers are now being studied to determine what part they play in the development of their children and, in turn, how this interaction affects their own development. At work, creating an encouraging culture in which taking parental leave is normalised and men can share their positive experiences is pivotal in sustaining an inclusive work culture.
Transitioning back into the workforce
The introduction of gender-neutral parental leave can level the playing field for working mothers. As fathers continue to equally contribute to the upbringing of the child, it allows the new mothers to transition back into the workforce without the added stress of managing work and family responsibilities. Additionally, it can support men to explore more child-related responsibilities as the women of the house go to work.
In the current world of work we live in, men have shown the necessary skills and audacious understanding to pick up the pieces of home-making and child-rearing as women have taken more steps towards working full time in an office environment. Hence the gender-neutral parental leave will allow both of them to have a sigh of relief especially the working mothers and usher in an era of sensitivity and care.
From an organisation perspective, these benefits have shown to increase productivity, appreciation for the company and overall job satisfaction. And in terms of the economy, this supports increased participation from women in the workforce.
Reimagining employee benefits
The cultural context around paternity leave is changing, as more countries and companies are offering the benefit to new fathers. Worldwide, 90 out of 187 countries offer statutory paid paternity leave, with almost four in ten organisations (38%) providing paid leave above the statutory minimum. In India, The introduction of paternity laws furthered the objective of promoting gender equality.
Today, there is growing acceptance in the workplace and otherwise, men too need time to bond with their children. Companies such as Meesho, Volvo, Flipkart, Razorpay and Salesforce already have solid parental leave policies in place. At Salesforce India for instance, in the last year, 79% of individuals who applied for parental leave were men.
In an all-digital environment, businesses play a key role in creating an equal and inclusive workplace. Businesses need to rethink how they can support parents for taking time away and also support them in their journey back to work; in turn, creating a more equitable workplace for all.