Parental leave is one of the more hotly debated issues among 2016 presidential candidates, and now Amazon has joined the discussion as the most recent major corporation to expand benefits for working parents. For the company’s expecting fathers, that means they can now look forward to 6-weeks of paternity leave. Though better than what the vast majority of U.S. companies offer, the offer doesn’t quite live up to that of tech contemporaries like Facebook (17 weeks), Microsoft (12 weeks) and Netflix, who made waves over the summer by offering “unlimited” parental leave for both mothers and fathers. Overall, when looking at the “50 Best Places To Work for New Dads,” Amazon’s new policy is about about a B+.
For intense work environments like Amazon, the question also becomes, can father’s afford to actually use their paternity leave? When a New York Times report took Amazon to task in August over allegations of being slightly more fun to work at than your local labor camp, the fear that young fathers had of losing their jobs to even younger singles was one of the article’s saddest points. The piece cites a 25-year old who worried that if he took too much time off to spend with his 2 kids, Amazon would “bring in college kids who have fewer commitments, who are single, who have more time to focus on work.” Though having 2 kids by 25 will certainly ruin your social life, it definitely shouldn’t ruin your career.In 2013, Forbes reported that only 13 percent of employers offered paternity leave at all. That number has probably inched up, but the story also cited a study showing 16 percent of men hadn’t taken any days off after the birth of their most recent child. In his book All In, about why he sued his company for paternity leave (and won!), CNN journalist Josh Levs notes that corporate policies haven’t kept up with American family life “because the people in power are often oblivious to the realities of modern families.” Levs notes that the people at the top tend to get there by putting family second, which makes the issue more than just one of corporate policy. It’s also about corporate culture.
Good on Amazon for finally giving employees paternity leave, but simply offering leave isn’t the same as creating a culture where workers feel like they can take leave. That’s a very important caveat that employers — not just Amazon but across the U.S. — need to start considering as well. Because not every employee can be replaced by a drone just yet.