Opinion: Parental Leave Policy in an agency setting - Why it matters?

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Parental Leave Policy

Asif Upadhye - Director, SPRD shares how at its core, inclusivity at work is about putting structures in place that meet the needs of diverse sets of people and Parental Leave Policy stands the potential of creating such inclusive systems.

In an era where inclusivity and diversity are finally taking center stage, are agencies taking the right steps to retain talent? For decades now, the Advertising and Marketing industry has relentlessly prided themselves on being at the forefront of change, be it the way that people dress (think casual Fridays, but every day), the way that people communicate, the way that ideas are presented and the way that culture is shaped. On the flip side, these industries are no strangers to incessantly long working hours, an endless pile of client demands, and body clocks that often function solely on caffeine.

If you’re wondering how this relates to a Parental Leave Policy, let’s start at the very top. From the lens of both inclusivity and why terminology matters, the intention behind crafting a Parental Leave Policy for all and wording it in a way that makes people feel like they have been heard/understood is what

will make a world of a difference to them in the long run. But that’s a minuscule part of why Parental Leave Policies needs to be part of every agency’s handbook. At its core, inclusivity at work is about putting structures in place that meet the needs of diverse sets of people.

Also Read: Expert Speak: Representation of women in ads – how close are we to reality?

So why not extend this benefit to all kinds of to-be parents?

Single dads, single moms, same-sex parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, commissioning parents, surrogate moms, the list goes on. The very nature of a ‘Maternity’ or ‘Paternity’ policy can sometimes tend to restrict us from thinking beyond traditional family set-ups. And so, drawing back to the point about inclusivity and why agencies need to be the flag-bearers of having a Parental Leave Policy, it’s about time we acknowledged the evolving needs of those very same new-age Indians who are a part of parcel of every day ‘agency life’.

Picture this for a moment: If the terms ‘Maternity Leave’ or ‘Paternity Leave’ are tossed around at work one day, do you tend to envision a female or male colleague who might become a parent soon? While this might not be a completely accurate assumption, it is still a fairly acceptable one. Out of 187 countries globally, did you know that India stands 90 th on the list with no national policies to ensure that fathers get enough paid Paternity Leave? The long-standing argument that new mothers need more time to heal physically and ease into child-rearing responsibilities has indeed stood the test of time.

While the former part of the statement isn’t incorrect, the latter is surely biased.

However, India’s slow but steady affair with promoting gender equality at the workplace is definitely gaining some teeth.

A Parental Leave Policy that is genderless helps break the conventional norms of who or what a parent is supposed to be or look like.

And hence offering 26 weeks of paid leave to all our employees, irrespective of gender, sex, marital status, gender identity and/or orientation didn’t only seem like the right thing to do, it was simply what needed to be done.

There are other aspects too. Like thinking about how this impacts work? Whether colleagues and hiring managers will look at someone taking a parental leave the same way as others. Whether they will be appraised well and also, if their promotions will be postponed (as is normally the case). While parenthood is celebrated as a milestone, what one would also need to embrace is how one sees the impact at a ground level. Being able to ‘share the load’ is also a factor of how flexible and inclusive work policies remain.

A Parental Leave Policy allows all kinds of parents to fully embrace the joys of parenthood without worrying if their jobs will still be waiting for them when they get back. Under special circumstances, it allows parents to deal with the loss of a child, in the event of a miscarriage, a stillbirth, or a medical termination of a pregnancy. It also takes into account parents who choose to adopt or have a child via surrogacy. The conversation that the world is having about inclusivity need not just stop at doing our part to make everyone feel welcome at the workplace. It needs to be about the permanent structures and policies that we as an industry put into place to actually ensure that people are really welcome.

This, will finally make some well-deserved room for employees who do not fall into your traditional categories of gender and sex, so to speak. Enabling them to bring their whole selves to work, celebrating parental milestones with them and ensuring that a range of benefits are available for when life demands an extra hand is what being an inclusive workplace is about.

The article on Parental Leave Policy is penned by Asif Upadhye - Director, SPRD.

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