"No! It's against company policy, that's why!" That's what a longtime client of mine was told recently when she requested time-off to be with her new baby.
Is that fair?
Should a woman who has a child with the help of another woman be given the same maternity leave as one who delivered her own? Should she have the benefit of some early time with her child to allow them to bond and get to know each other?
Or, is this an expense that should not have to be carried by an employer? Naysayers make the case that, "After all, it's not like the woman (my client) was physically involved with actually carrying and delivery of the baby. At what point does a company's care and policy get abused?"
Based on my observations of the landscape, more and more senior and executive women are opting to stay on the career track during the years that many others have opted for the baby track. And when they do decide the time is right, some of them are using surrogates. For many, this may be a choice. Others may have no choice, however. For them the only way to have children is by using a surrogate.
Here's my take on it:
1. Many companies are now being forced to look at every expense line today, just to ensure they will still be around when the market and economy are in better shape. Adding new expenses to their budgets may cause them to have to cut back on other, more traditional, expenses and benefits.
2. Women who choose to have a child - regardless of how - are making that decision with full knowledge that it may have an impact on their career.
So, given these points, am I saying that I agree with the position of my client's employer who said that she cannot take off the customary amount of time allowed for maternity and be paid for that time?
I think any policy that doesn't take into account the realities of today needs to be reviewed for appropriateness in light of the company's business needs. If that policy might cause them to lose a great employee or executive, it's short-sighted, penny-wise and pound poor. Finally, any organization that makes a decision - or doesn't actually make a decision but simply allows an inappropriate policy to remain in effect - which causes great performers to leave, then it's shooting itself in the foot. And that company is doing a disservice to its shareholders.
Precisely because business is getting harder and the economy is in such bad shape; it's incumbent upon everyone in a leadership role (including not only line managers but staff managers as well) to do whatever it takes to keep their best team members satisfied, and with their organization.
Otherwise, they'll lose individuals who make solid contributions. Then, they'll have to go out and recruit replacements. Those replacements usually have high "acquisition costs" such as headhunter or office staffing costs. Additionally, even if the newbie is as good as the individual being replaced, (s)he brings some less obvious additional costs such as training, and productivity loss while getting up to speed. Not to mention the fact that about 20% of senior executives who are recruited just don't make it, have to be let go within 90 days, and another recruited to replace them again with all the commensurate costs and aggravation.
- No company should penalize female team members when they want to take some time off to be with their new child, regardless of how it arrived. It's simply not right from the perspective of being a "caring" organization.
- But if being "caring" doesn't influence the organization, then do it for the good of the goals, objectives, and bottom line. Keep your strong players happy and with you.
The costs of the wrong decision isn't worth the short term savings.
John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion dollar organizations and launching start-ups in both the U.S. and Canada. The author of two published books, he is frequently seen providing advice on TV, in magazines, and newspapers.