I was reading an article recently about language when it occurred to me that words and explanations can resonate differently when framed in familiar ways. So I thought...why not apply the same to the issue of paid parental leave.
When companies and organizations welcome a new employee, they "onboard" by providing orientation, training, materials, perks, swag, boxed lunches, introductions to those who know their way around...things to make the transition as smooth as possible. It's standard operating procedure and there's also an understanding that it's going to take time for the employee to acclimate. Sometimes weeks if not longer.
So why is welcoming a child into an employee's life any different? It shouldn't be. It's far more complicated and no boxed lunches are provided either. The way I see it, it's onboarding that focuses on the "life" side of work/life integration.
And...since an employee is paid during this introductory period and if being family-friendly is how the company or organization frames their culture, what better way to demonstrate it than by providing paid leave during this "other" onboarding phase of life?
Businesses have to realize that the rest of the world is looking at us wondering...what's taking them so long. If we're really the country of innovation and progress, we've dropped the ball when it comes to providing paid leave for working parents. All working parents. Is it because it hasn't been framed in basic business terms?
The framing also requires genuinely supporting working fathers and their need for paid leave as well. Norway has developed a "use it or lose it" approach that seems to be working so since imitation is the highest form of flattery, let's flatter.
And because parents aren't a monolithic group just as new employees are not, paid leave needs to be equitable and flexible, including all parents. Adoptive, foster and respite parents. Grandparents raising their grandchildren. LGBTQ couples welcoming a child into their lives including adapting language as well as policies.
Onboarding means integrating and familiarizing and in no area is this more important than when an employee becomes a parent. Life becomes defined by everything new and having the time to acclimate and adjust without concerns about paying the bills has an impact across the board.
Paid parental leave is onboarding at its finest. It shows employees that their work/life needs are understood and supported. So while a well-intentioned turkey sandwich or a coffee mug with a logo is a nice gesture, the most meaningful, long-term impact occurs when employees are provided paid time for their new, lifelong role...parent.