I’ve just enjoyed a fabulous holiday in the Nordic countries of Denmark and Norway with my “OH”. There are many things we loved about these countries not least the incredible scenery as you can see!
Before I went, I read “The year of living Danishly” by Helen Russell whose cover invites you to uncover “the secrets of the world’s happiest country”. It really gripped me, not least because of the very different approach to parenting and schooling with the author enthusing that they didn’t feel the pressure of combining work and family life. It was so much easier to do both, and with less of a guilty conscience, because of the working environment and culture towards working parents. Interestingly we noticed this also when walking around towns and parks where we saw so many men pushing prams. We both commented on it, so I don’t think it was just my feminine observations! It was so good to see families out with their Papa’s having a lovely and relaxing time together
What has this to do with HR I hear you ask? Well, everything! In these countries they have a very different approach and culture to parents, and in particular, there are far better paid parental leave rights for both parents in these countries.
It isn’t just these countries as you may know, Sweden has super parental leave. In 1974 they were the first country in the world to replace gender-specific maternity leave with parental leave. Parents are entitled to a staggering 480 days of paid parental leave when a child is born or adopted!
This has got me thinking. Why can’t we adopt better leave opportunities here for both parents.
- Why should one parent receive one year of (appallingly badly) paid leave and the other receive only two weeks of paternity leave?
- Why can’t we begin to adopt different cultures within our businesses which mean that people don’t have to make choices about career or family?
- Why shouldn’t parents be encouraged – yes, encouraged- to take longer leave and work less hours to spend time with their young family for that all-important bonding?
I feel that this would be very attractive to current staff and, importantly right now, potential future staff if this were to be offered and made readily available on internal and external communications. We should shout from the roof tops about policies that want parents to spend time with their families and this should become a reality and quickly so that we can begin to change attitudes.
For my part, I will explore with all my clients the opportunities to enhance the existing policies and rights of parents. Yes, I too can already hear the nay-sayers offering arguments against - particularly those who aren’t parents – and perhaps also people who want to spend time with their puppy or kitten to bond with that. To those I say check the research which clearly indicates the importance of parent/child bonding the first years of life which can have a huge impact on the development of a child’s brain development and can, if ignored or not nurtured, lead to long-term mental health problems. How can we compare the life of a human being with life of a cat or dog and what they will bring to society in the future and how they will integrate with people throughout the rest of their lives?
I hope this blog has inspired you to think creatively how you can make a difference in your workplace.
If you’d like to discuss changing your policies please contact me.
Thanks for reading!