On April 30th Yahoo changed its parental leave policy. Of course because it was Yahoo, which previously eliminated its telecommuting policy, the fact that they instituted a very friendly parental leave policy made the news. The company instituted a policy that allowed 16 weeks of maternity leave and 8 weeks of paternity leave. This immediately raised questions of gender discrimination. Was it?
This policy deals with PAID leave and is taken as part of the FMLA policy. So to answer any question related to FMLA I go to Jeff Nowak, the attorney blogger, who writes FMLA Insights. In his post, When an Employer Provides More Parental Leave to Mom than Dad, is this Gender Discrimination?, he provides with a video answer. It was an interesting discussion and I encourage you to listen to the entire video, but I will give you his answer on the question. But before I do what do you think?
Well if you said “no” then you are correct, at least the way this is structured. Under the FMLA the paternal leave provided to fathers is for “bonding.” The 16 weeks provided to mothers at Yahoo takes into consideration birth recovery and bonding. The standard recovery time accepted for a normal birth is 6 to 8 weeks, so Yahoo is providing the 8 weeks. They are then saying that there is an additional 8 weeks for bonding. So, according to Jeff, the leave time provided for bonding is equal across genders and thus there is no discrimination.
Where this could be considered gender discrimination would be if the facts were different and mothers who adopted where given the entire 16 weeks, but fathers who adopted were only given the 8 weeks. According to Jeff, because there is no needed recovery time, providing an additional 8 weeks to the mothers would indeed be gender discrimination.
Certainly Yahoo should be applauded for being so family friendly. Most companies cannot be that generous. But the questions raised by their policy points out the potential unintended consequences of being too “family friendly.” Be careful in how you craft your policies.