Friday, January 23, 2015

Parental leave- right or a privilege?

Topic of parental leave is very sensitive, it is debated in many political and professional forums, even President Obama mentioned it during his state of union address on January 20th. People always debate whether it is a right or a privilege? People argue very passionately either in favor or against both of these things, there is also a disagreement about how much parental leave is enough or what is optimum time; 2 weeks, 2 months, 6 months or one year? One might find some of these numbers totally irrational or ridiculous but if we accept that parenting is a full time job then it is often difficult to decide how much time is required for parents to leave their kid with someone else and come back to work. I personally believe that parenting is a personal responsibility of respective parents, after all they decide to become parents based on their own priorities. Here I am making an assumption that that at least most of parents plan before taking on to this huge responsibility. So once they decide to become a parent it is their job to figure out how to take care of their child. There is no doubt that any help from their employer or government can definitely help them to go through initial heavily demanding days of parenting and that is where this issue runs into rough waters. How much help is enough? Is this a one of the reason many small businesses (or even big ones) hesitate to hire women? Can this little gap be harmful for progress of any women's professional career? Can this policy of mandatory parental leave affect the productivity of small business? There are many questions related with this issue which people raise and debate. I think policy makers need to take into consideration these questions before making any rule or law regarding this issue otherwise there will be always some unwritten law which organizations will follow if their concerns are not taken into account.

Every parent needs some assistance during initial days after child birth as the work is both physically and mentally challenging. Women also need time to recover physically so there is no doubt that they need maternity leave before they come back to work. Parenting is a responsibility of both parents so father also need to have an option of paternity leave so that he can take care of his responsibility as a parent during those initial days. I am sure policy makers must have done research before deciding 2 month and 2 weeks of time for parental leaves. There is also professional child care options available for parents who don't want to take any leave. It should be entirely their choice. If parents, specially mother chose not to take her entire maternity leave and join the work much before then she should not be looked upon as insensitive parent (recent controversy related with Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is an example of this). Everyone should be free to use or not to use the option of parental leave based on their own needs and priorities. There is no some gold standard which every one should follow, we should respect every parents style of parenting without being judgmental. It is OK to offer advise and suggestions but it is up to respective parents to accept or reject those suggestions. Every parent have a right to develop their own style of parenting. I have seen personally some parents inventing new ways to deal with some of the problems they faced during parenting and it definitely helped them to handle their child in better way.

I personally believe that parental leave should be a part of every professional package so that prospective parents (specially mothers) don't have to choose between either parenthood or career.  I should be considered as a right but even if for some reason it is not then it can be offered as a special privilege specially by organizations who don't have any policy about this. Doesn't matter how it is offered; a right or as a special privilege to parents it will help organizations to keep talented people in their work force. It will help women to plan their careers without worrying about effect of their pregnancy on their professional life. Parents also need to use this option responsibly. They need to plan in such a way that it doesn't hurt their company's productivity. If both parties involved behave responsibly then I think parental leave can benefit both, organizations as well as parents equally.  

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

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