Today’s Working Fathers Want Modern Benefits: Here’s What Your Company Must Give Them
Dads are more involved in caregiving and household responsibilities than ever before. And after a year spent working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the message they are sending to current and potential employers is clear: “Dads want to spend more time with their kids,” says entrepreneur Michael Rothman, CEO and Co-founder of Fatherly, a leading digital media brand for men that reaches more than 23 million people with its articles, podcasts, newsletters, and events each month.
There are about 49 million working fathers in the US, according to the most recent census and workforce data. If businesses want to compete for that sector of the talent pool, leaders need to show dads that their companies are good places to work.
Fatherly’s new Best Places to Work for Dads certification program recognizes organizations that meet a 148-point set of criteria around family-friendly policies and benefits. Twenty-six companies made this year’s inaugural list, including TIAA, a Fortune 100 insurance provider where benefits for working parents include fully paid gender-neutral leave, coverage for surrogacy, adoption, and in vitro fertilization, plus free homework help for kids, and even free virtual after-school programs.
This is a much different package of perks than the ones companies used to offer employees. “Fifteen years ago, the joke was that startups [were trying] to lure top talent with beanbags and beer on tap. Now we’re seeing that the war for talent is being waged with benefits,” says Rothman.
“We understand that a person doesn’t stop being a parent when they log on to their workstation, nor should they be expected to, especially given the complexity of life-work demands,” Corie Pauling, Chief Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Officer and Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at TIAA tells Staffing.com. “When our people are well supported as parents and otherwise, they give their very best, and that’s how we’re best able to help our clients.”
By focusing on company culture, HR-driven programs, and family-friendly policies, companies can truly make themselves great places for working dads to put down roots. Here’s how.
Modernize Your Family Leave Policy
What does a truly supportive work environment for a working parent of any gender look like? It starts with inclusive, paid family leave, says Rothman. Companies are increasingly offering fathers paid time off at home after the arrival of a new child, and the most forward-thinking ones are eliminating the differences between “maternity” and “paternity” leave and offering equitable stretches of paid leave to new parents, no matter their gender.
The minimum amount of paid leave a company must offer working dads in order to be certified by Fatherly is at least six weeks, says Rothman, but “it’s worth noting that many of our certified companies have removed the distinction between paternity/maternity leave in favor of the more broadly defined ‘parental’ leave.” TIAA offers much more than that: up to 16 weeks of fully paid gender-neutral leave for parents—a benefit that also applies to both adoptive and foster parents, not just those with a newborn baby.
Of this year’s Fatherly winners, Diageo, a multinational alcoholic beverage company based in London, offered the most paid time off for mothers and fathers at 26 weeks. Salesforce offers 26 weeks of leave for primary caregivers and 12 weeks for secondary caregivers. Notably, Salesforce also offers a gradual return program, paying employees their full salary for several weeks as they return to work on a reduced schedule.
Offer Remote and Hybrid Work
Nearly all of the businesses on Fatherly’s list offer the flexibility of remote or hybrid job roles, including TIAA, Citigroup, Hilton, Facebook, and Salesforce. New research by the international child- and eldercare organization Bright Horizons found that 58% of working parents who started doing their jobs from home in 2020 want to stay remote.
The ability to work from home some or all of the time is so important in today’s job market that some job candidates are willing to sacrifice salary to achieve it. A new survey of 1,000 American workers by Breeze, a global disability and critical illness insurance company, found that a majority of respondents would take a pay cut in order to work remotely indefinitely. Generation Xers and millennials—people in the prime parenting years of 25 to 56 years old—were the most likely to trade salary for the ability to work from anywhere: Nearly one in five would give up a whopping 25% of their salary for that privilege.
Ask Leaders to Set a Good Example
To attract and retain today’s working fathers, companies also need to foster a dad-friendly culture, says Rothman. Do executives take it in stride when kids pop into the frame during Zoom meetings, for instance? Do they allow for more flexible hours and more asynchronous work to accommodate school pickups or events? Do male leaders with kids take parental leave and time off for their families?
Even in organizations with generous parental policies, there may be a lingering stigma about men actually using it—a cultural issue that companies need to address, notes Rothman. In fact, in a 2019 survey by the Boston College Center for Work & Family, 38% of men said they did not take all of the parental leave offered by their companies. Fears about their reputation at work and chances of advancement may play a part in that: Only 55% of men in the survey felt “extremely supported” by senior management in their decision to take family leave, compared to 76% of women.
By celebrating companies that respect the needs of working fathers, Rothman and his team at Fatherly hope to galvanize employers everywhere to take action and create better conditions for parents of any gender. Designing the right policies for parents is not just the right thing to do, it’s also good for an employer’s brand, and gives them an edge in the war for top talent, says Rothman. “Organizations who don’t recognize that policies and benefits and culture are just as important as cash compensation are going to be left behind.”