One Company Strikes A Balance

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported the following research findings from the nonprofit Families and Work Institute:

Only 16% of employers offer full pay for childbirth leave, down from 27% in 1998, based on a nationally representative sample of 1,100 employers by the nonprofit Families and Work Institute. The average maximum length of job-guaranteed leaves for new mothers shrank too, to 15.2 weeks from 16.1 weeks a decade ago; leave for dads fell to 12.6 weeks from 13.1. Employers aren't deliberately targeting new mothers with pay cuts; rather, maternity leave has been caught in the crossfire over rising disability costs in general. Most maternity-leave pay in the U.S. comes in the form of disability pay, allotted for the six to eight weeks typically needed to heal after childbirth. New mothers are being hit by a cost-cutting move among employers toward paying only a fraction of full pay to workers on short-term disability, rather than 100% as was common in the past, as an incentive for employees to return to work as soon as they're able.

Discouraging news, certainly. But it's important to note that not every company has participated in this trend. And it's equally important to spread the news about companies that treat working parents with fairness and respect, so that we all can try to work at these companies, and send a message to others treating working parents justly is a valuable employee recruitment and retention advantage.

One employer that's striking the right balance is PricewaterhouseCoopers. The accounting and consulting company has 28,000 employees worldwide, with roughly 700 taking maternity leave each year. PwC offers two types of parental leave, depending on whether you are a primary care parent or non-primary care parent. (PwC has not yet designed Equally Shared Parenting policies, but I'm sure Amy and Marc Vachon will hop to it soon).

As long as you've worked for PwC for three months, you can use paid parental leave in consecutive weeks or in smaller increments, such as taking Fridays off each week, for up to one year. In additional to maternity disability leave or paid adoption leave, which covers eight to ten weeks of 100 percent paid leave, primary care parents are entitled to an additional six to eight weeks of paid parental leave; non-primary care parents can take three weeks paid leave. And, of course, PwC protects employees' jobs on an unpaid basis for the 12 weeks mandated by The Family and Medical Leave Act; plus, in some cases it allows unpaid absences for six months or longer.

PwC also offers free prenatal care, a lactation program, child-care discounts and referrals, emergency child care and reimbursement, private nursing rooms, flexible work arrangements, family sick days to care for ill spouses and children, and the Full Circle Program to stay connected to employees who become stay-at-home parents. Jennifer Allyn from the Office of Diversity explains why these policies are critical to the firm's success: "PwC recruits 50 percent women associates each year and we know we can't run this firm without women."

The company keeps adding new benefits for parents, including the recent launch of Mentor Moms, a 20-month voluntary program designed to pair experienced working moms with newly pregnant employees. Explains employee Maris Friedman:

"The Mentor Moms program started as a result of my own challenges trying to balance a successful career at PwC and my job as the primary caregiver to my two sons. After the birth of my second son, I struggled to find the right balance between my two jobs -- as a professional at PwC and as a mother. I was starting to feel like I couldn't make it work and that I was going to have to opt out of the workforce. One of my female partners reached out to me and began calling me once a week -- offering me a much needed sounding board, validation and assistance in creating the right work/life balance. This proved to be a lifeline and allowed me to find the right balance. I can honestly say that I feel so lucky to be able to have a successful career and be a good mother at the same time, and the mentoring I received proved invaluable during an extremely vulnerable time in my life. As a result, I started a grass-roots mentoring program which has now grown into a successful mentoring program across PwC. It is imperative that large corporations recognize the need to be 'flexible' and 'accommodating' with all parents, not just mothers."

I don't outline all this to suggest we should rush over to PwC. One company obviously cannot solve all work-balance problems. But seeing -- in detail -- how one large, multinational company tackles work-family support shows that all companies can do more to make it possible for parents to be good employees and good parents simultaneously.

What has your company done (or not done) to help parents? What do you think are the easiest, most affordable steps a company can take to make your juggling act more balanced? What is the biggest mistake you see employers making?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  June 19, 2008; 7:10 AM ET  | Category:  Workplaces
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I work for the Federal Government which is currently one the least progressive employers when it comes to childbirth. We will have to wait and see if some of the new legislation floating around passes and gets signed. Generally I think employers just need to be understanding of new moms and dads. Don't rush them back or assume they can do work at home 1 week post-partum. Realize that this is a major change in your employees life and be as flexible as possible with approving leave and when possible providing paid leave.

Posted by: HappyDad | June 19, 2008 7:22 AM

HappyDad -- From my view, our gov't should be one of the most progressive employers when it comes to working parents. The gov't has an obligation to reflect our country's values, which pays passionate lip service to the importance of motherhood and "childre are our future." Additionally, the gov't could set an example for the private sector.

What can be done, even in small ways, to make this happen?

Posted by: Leslie | June 19, 2008 7:43 AM

Even in the midst of a nursing shortage, particularly acute in critical care, we've been able to let our new moms take 3-6 months off, using a combination of paid and unpaid leave. Desperation is real motivator.

Posted by: babsy1 | June 19, 2008 7:57 AM

"The gov't has an obligation to reflect our country's values,"

Leslie, I agree with that, but the Government also has an obligation to wisely spend the precious taxpayer dollars it is given.

The reality is that in almost every field in the US, salaries and benefits are functions of the perceived supply of and demand for labor. I know a number of PwC employees; they have great benefits, but they are also in a situation where they need a large number of highly skilled people and there aren't a whole lot of them floating around. So they give those benefits because the supply-and-demand heavily favors labor in this case.

In my own field, it's the same way. There aren't enough skilled network engineers; we need every one we can get. There are even fewer skilled female engineers. We can't afford myopic labor policies that run off some of the few people we've got. My own employer has kept a very talented female engineer employed part-time, on her terms, while she's had three kids. We keep her on staff and get the benefits of her skills now, and the plan is that when her kids are old enough she comes back full time and is loyal to the company that was loyal to her.

In occupations where perceived supply and demand tilts toward the employer - that is, employers believe they can readily replace employees either with people currently available or by outsourcing/offshoring - it's going to be a lot harder to get good benefits.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 19, 2008 8:01 AM

Accenture has program called future leave that I read about in WSJ. It includes an option to bank wages in a separate account, continue benefits at same premium. It's intended to cover cross section of reasons for leave of absence - children, elder care, personal development, etc.

http://www.worldatwork.org/waw/adimLink?id=25878

Leslie: I have a great, progressive boss (I'm a Fed too). But the average age in here is 50 - more progressive policies will likely come when these folks retire in the next 5-7 years. As foamgnome has noted in the past flexible schedules in gov't are subject to manager approval. (Telecommuting is a touch subject around here).

Posted by: Kate | June 19, 2008 8:15 AM

@ArmyBrat - as a former Fed - would you disagree that there is a dearth of highly skilled managers/talent? (GS-12 on up...) Lawyers are a good example - it's not uncommon for a young lawyer to do 2-3 years immediately out of law school at an agency/on the Hill and take that experience to a 3rd year associate gig. How can govt retain those folks?

Posted by: Kate | June 19, 2008 8:22 AM

My husband worked for PwC when our two children were born. While they offer those benefits in name good luck taking them. My husband took less than 1 week with our first because he felt pressured to be there. When she was hospitalized at 5 days old he went to work and then came to the hospital with his laptop to work in the evenings.

PwC promotes on a bell curve ranking each person at a certain level and then promoting a certain number. He moved up rapidly but you can bet women with small children did not. He left after the birth of our second since I needed more help at home as I also work full time. He now works for a smaller but very visible firm. They are much more accommodating to our family!

In my experience a better measure of family friendliness is how many people have working spouses. If almost none of the spouses are working it is a good bet that it is because they are needed at home due to long hours and an inability to stay home with a sick child.

Posted by: Lauren | June 19, 2008 8:27 AM

I worked for PwC. Yes they have those benefits on paper, but good luck taking them. They had all sorts of excuses why employees couldn't use them. If you actually do end up being able to use the benefits it ends up hurting your chargeability which in turn hurts your raises and bonuses and promotions. There is a reason why the big 4 have such high turnover - lack of commitment to give employees flexability.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2008 8:41 AM

Kate - it seems to vary by Agency, but yes the Federal Government seems to suffer from a lack of top management and technical talent.

IMNSHO - part of it is pay, part of it is the outsourcing/contracting culture. In many areas (geographically and skill) Government pay is pretty good, but in specialty areas - engineering, law, etc. - Government pay is very low. A lot of mid to senior level engineers make far, far more in private industry than they can ever make for the Feds. I'm told it's the same for lawyers but don't personally know.

The other issue is the movement toward outsourcing/contracting out all the technical work. That was why I ultimately left. There's this pre-conceived notion that private industry can always design and build systems, analyze problems, etc. much cheaper/faster/better than Feds can. For the hard-core geek who wants to keep his/her hands dirty solving real problems, it's frustrating to be told that you're going to hire a contractor to do the work and your only inputs will be general guidance about what problems should be solved. (Both political parties agree with this; outsourcing got a huge push from Clinton & Gore.)

(And if it's a big enough program, your input will be limited by the number of Congress-critters owned or leased by the contracting company.)

Similar problems exist in retaining good managers - they can make much more in private industry, and if they want to do fun work solving problems they can do it there.

You might conclude that I think that the only ones who stay are the ones not good enough to get a job in private industry. That's not true. Fortunately, there are some people who are so dedicated to the mission that they stay despite these factors. There just aren't a whole lot of them.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 19, 2008 8:47 AM

PriceWaterhouseCooper, Accenture? It seems to me that in a free market, companies that have a lot of money will pay handsomely to retain valuable employees.

The problem is that most companies are not so wealthy and most employees are not considered to be so valuable. It is often forgotten that these benefits cost a lot of money and most employers appear unlikely to offer these benefits unless they are required by legislation.

Posted by: Josey23 | June 19, 2008 9:10 AM

I have not worked for PWC, but did for one of their competitors (re: big 4 public accounting). I am skeptical that you can take the leave or have an easy transition back. At companies like that, it is all about billable hours. And, you are expected to work at least 50 hours per week for half of the year. No thanks!

Although I feel as if I will have balance once my little one arrives at my current job, we have no maternity policy. It is a very small company and I am the only woman. So, it was not needed in the past. Once I get to the point I will tell my boss I need to take leave, it will be interesting to see what they offer.

Posted by: Thought | June 19, 2008 9:16 AM

What about the childfree? Equal treatment of all employees should be the Golden Rule. It is not like I can take 3-4 months off and EXPECT to get full pay. Having a child does not make you more special; just different.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2008 9:16 AM

my sister works for pwc and was able to take advantage of 3 month maternity leave. However, it was a major career hit. She knew when planning for a child, that her career was going to be derailed, so she waited until she was at a good position before letting her career stall. Benefits are a wonderful thing. But I feel that no matter where you are, the decision to have a child derails your career, at least for a few years.

Posted by: also a consultant | June 19, 2008 9:21 AM

"What about the childfree? Equal treatment of all employees should be the Golden Rule. It is not like I can take 3-4 months off and EXPECT to get full pay. Having a child does not make you more special; just different."

NOT THAT AGAIN!!!!!!!

Companies (and Governments) do not treat all employees equally; they have not treated all employees equally; they should not treat all employees equally. They should treat them appropriately.

You want a different example? Military leave. Someone who is in the National Guard or Reserves gets months of leave from their Federal Government jobs (and from many private industry jobs). So if there's a reservist in your office who takes two weeks in the summer (that don't count against vacation) to attend military training, you want two weeks off in the summer that don't count as vacation, too? Or do you recognize that sometimes "unequal treatment" of employees is okay?

(And if that reservist happens to get called to active duty and sent to places like Iraq, Afghanistan, New Orleans after Katrina, etc. you want to be able to leave the job to do something else for 13 months and have a position guaranteed when you come back, too? or just go ahead and fire the reservist?)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 19, 2008 9:34 AM

I agree with posters above - you can't just do everything you want and expect everyone else to cater to you.

If you are highly skilled and willing to put up with certain things, then working for some of these companies might work for you. My DH was working at different companies when the kids were born, he took some leave, and some vacation time, and he didn't expect to be getting extra treatment.

But the reality is that as much as you bow to the companies who offer these benefits, Leslie, they pay the employees LESS with every benefit that is offered. If there were no benefits, the pay would increase, so it's really a perceived benefit. When people bemoan that their company doesn't do XYZ, they may look at it objectively and see that if another company does, their pay doesn't match up.

It's true... my last job was for a company that, while pay and bonus was not spectacular - they offer a pension when one hits five years of service. Virtually unheard of in most companies/industries (they don't really tell anyone they offer it, though, which is strange to me).

SO, one must look at everything when one looks at a company. What I think benefits such as these actually do is to show people what the company 'line' is so to speak, and hopefully, less discrimination hits those who are in certain situations (parents, etc).

But as people above have mentioned, many companies have things on paper that don't actually come true.

Posted by: atlmom | June 19, 2008 9:34 AM

"What has your company done (or not done) to help parents?"

We just updated our maternity/paternity leave policy -- I think it's now 10 weeks paid maternity, 4 weeks paid paternity, same for attorneys and staff. They looked at the cost, and basically, when you looked at how relatively infrequently people took leave, it wasn't that much of a difference. We also have a flexible work policy -- ie, if you want to work a particular schedule, basically, tell us, and we'll do it if it doesn't mess with client needs.

Since we're in one of those fields where employees are assets instead of fungible commodities, we need to try to keep good people. People who work here have other options -- if they want a lighter workload and steadier hours, they can go to the government; if they want more money, they can go to big firms. So we have to make people want to be here. We pretty much figure if you treat people as professionals, and show a little loyalty and flexibility to them when they're going through big life events, they'll be more likely to return the favor. So far, so good.

Posted by: Laura | June 19, 2008 9:52 AM

It's great to have the policies on paper, but the companies have to do a better job of documenting why people don't come back from leaves. If managers are not rewarded for implementing firm objectives and penalized for ignoring policies that improve retention, then HR really is pulling a bait and switch.

The media bears some responsibility too in basing "best companies" lists on what these companies' PR machines are churning out. I haven't seen reporters following up with any investigative reporting of how well these programs are implemented. I'd like to hear your take on that, Leslie.

I was denied the option of any telecommuting by one of the big consulting firms because my manager's direct report didn't want the extra effort and cost of supporting remote connectivity. It was also during a time of downsizing, so my not coming back helped reduce headcount.

It's nothing new--employers bend over backwards to retain employees during good economic times. During tougher times, reducing headcount overshadows looking at the quality of individual employees.

Posted by: marian | June 19, 2008 10:19 AM

My company has decent benefits: Moms can take up to 13 weeks of disability leave at 2/3 of their pay. Dads don't get any leave.

Posted by: Josey23 | June 19, 2008 10:28 AM

I think the whole idea of taking just 6-8 weeks to "heal" is missing the whole picture of childbirth. I actually left my last job so that I could take as much time as I wanted to bond with my firstborn child. That was more important to me than some job. This was my first experience as a parent as I wanted to take my time learning to adapt and enjoy the whole experience. I have absolutely no regrets. It might be different for the second child since I know what I'm doing now. But jobs are just that: jobs. I didn't want a time limit on motherhood.

Posted by: dcp | June 19, 2008 10:45 AM

to anon at 9:16, and ArmyBrat:

I think there are ways to be fair to families with children and employees without them. I think that parents get targeted benefits over others because they are vocal advocates. Not too many people are willing to go on the record as being anti-family or anti-child. And let's face it -- even if we don't all have children, we were all once children, so there is shared experience.

And altering targeted benefits will cost you. For example, I teach in a Catholic school. When I began several years ago, teachers with children in the school received a discount on tuition of more than 50%. Over time, financial necessity prompted the parish and Home-School Association board to decide to cut this benefit significantly. This has placed a number of teachers in a difficult position -- they can't afford to keep their children in the school at their current salary, and they don't want to disrupt the children by pulling them from the school. Some teachers felt like it was a bit of bait-and-switch. So far, we have lost two teachers to public schools because of this.
Now, my children never attended the school, so I never recieved this benefit, but I never questioned its value. However, other teachers complained, because they thought it was unfair. IMHO, the school would have been better off to offer a blanket tuition credit for teachers to use at our school, at one of the local Catholic high schools, or even for advanced degree work for the teachers. It may have been a smaller amount, and it may not have persuaded both teachers to stay, but it has the advantages of fairness and flexibility.

Posted by: educmom | June 19, 2008 10:50 AM

"IMHO, the school would have been better off to offer a blanket tuition credit for teachers to use at our school, at one of the local Catholic high schools, or even for advanced degree work for the teachers. It may have been a smaller amount, and it may not have persuaded both teachers to stay, but it has the advantages of fairness and flexibility."

This makes sense -- but an easier policy would be to cut the benefit completely in exchange for higher salaries across the board.

Posted by: Makes Sense | June 19, 2008 11:02 AM

Makes Sense,
I agree. I think the benefit was added back when the composition of Catholic school faculties was changing from nuns to lay teachers, and I'm guessing it was a relatively inexpensive way to attract teachers -- back in those days, parents also received multi-child discounts. I know my principal would pay us all at the local county scale if she could afford it, and if she didn't have to stay within the Archdiocesan salary guidelines.

Posted by: educmom | June 19, 2008 11:15 AM

I work at a university. Officially, the policy for faculty is 6 weeks paid maternity leave/2 weeks paid paternity leave. But then again, faculty schedules are notoriously flexible anyway, so as long as their teaching responsibilities are covered and their research sponsors are happy no one makes a big deal.

The policy for staff is up to 6 months, but only paid if you have sufficient sick leave and/or vacation to cover it.

It should be noted that there are 40 tenured faculty in my department, 5 of which are women. Only two of those 5 women (all married) have kids.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2008 11:16 AM

In my office, we had a Christmas day the Friday before the holiday. Employees were able to bring their kids to the office to meet santa and watch movies. So everyone who didn't have children, sat there doing nothing the entire day. For the younger employees(including myself) we were not able to complete projects or do work. There were children running around the office and groups of women cooing and fawing over toddlers. The whole day was total bore and somewhat offensive to all the employees who didn't have children.

My company has another great policy that enables parents to use their sick days for their kids, which is clearly abused by some people, but I'm not alowed to use a sick day for preventive care.

I fully support better benefits for working parents, but I agree with earlier posters that we have to think about extending additional benefits to employees without children. No one doubts that children come with a lot of challenges, but it doesn't make you handicapped or require that everyone assume some of those challenges for you...

Posted by: deedeenyc | June 19, 2008 11:20 AM

In my office, we had a Christmas day the Friday before the holiday. Employees were able to bring their kids to the office to meet santa and watch movies. So everyone who didn't have children, sat there doing nothing the entire day. For the younger employees(including myself) we were not able to complete projects or do work. There were children running around the office and groups of women cooing and fawing over toddlers. The whole day was total bore and somewhat offensive to all the employees who didn't have children.

My company has another great policy that enables parents to use their sick days for their kids, which is clearly abused by some people, but I'm not alowed to use a sick day for preventive care.

I fully support better benefits for working parents, but I agree with earlier posters that we have to think about extending additional benefits to employees without children. No one doubts that children come with a lot of challenges, but it doesn't make you handicapped or require that everyone assume some of those challenges for you...

Posted by: ddnyc | June 19, 2008 11:21 AM

Is the 6 weeks maternity leave at the university full pay? It's likely that 60% of the mother's salary for 6 weeks is actually covered by short-term disability insurance for the medical recovery needed after delivering a child.

Are adoptive mothers eligible for 6 weeks? Is the 2 weeks of paternity leave in addition to vacation and paid leave earned by all employees.

I'm just curious, because to say that mothers get 6 weeks and fathers get 2 weeks makes it sound as though the university is paying unequally. The part of the mother's leave paid by short-term disability insurance isn't really maternity leave.

Posted by: marian | June 19, 2008 11:23 AM

I hear everyone's frustration with benefits that exist but people are afraid to use them.

My husband works in a male-dominated, caucasian-dominated industry where most men have stay-at-home wives. He felt pressured to return to work immediately after our children were born. So I understand.

But some people have got to go first here. Yes, it's a risk. But change won't happen if you don't push the envelope.

At the Post, there was a paternity leave policy that almost no one had ever taken. During the time I was there, in quick succession, three extremely promising male managers took the full one-month leave. It made zero difference in their careers. In fact, I think it made them more human as managers (in perception and reality).

If your company has these generous policies and you don't take advantage of them, you only have yourself to blame. And you are letting down everyone else -- people who don't have these benefits or can't take them for a legitimate reason -- but not showing that you have the right and the self-confidence to be a good employee and a good parent at the same time.

Posted by: Leslie | June 19, 2008 11:28 AM

educmom & Makes Sense: the problem is that the two options (use the money to subsidize a benefit vs. give it to the employees as higher salaries) are NOT equivalent to the employer because of the tax implications.

If the employer - even a recognized non-profit like a Catholic school - gives the money out in payroll, they're liable for the employer's share of taxes on it - e.g., 6.2% in OASD Insurance if not over the limit; 1.45% in Medicare withholding. There may also be unemployment insurance taxes on it. (You have to pay your share of taxes on it, too.)

If they take the same amount of money and use it to subsidize a benefit, then there are no taxes on that money. It's cheaper for them in the long run.

That was one of the many reasons that many employers originally provided company-paid healthcare. The share of the premiums paid by the employer are not taxable income to you, so there's no Social Security, Medicare, etc. paid out of that money.

So it's unfortunately not as simple as "use X dollars to subsidize a benefit vs pay X dollars as salaries to employees." It's "use X dollars to subsidize a benefit vs pay X + Y dollars as salaries and other withholding for employees."

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 19, 2008 11:36 AM

"educmom & Makes Sense: the problem is that the two options (use the money to subsidize a benefit vs. give it to the employees as higher salaries) are NOT equivalent to the employer because of the tax implications."

This is also true because the actual out-of-pocket cost of leave is usually way less than the employee's salary over that time. For secretaries, yes, we might hire a temp, but we pay them a much cheaper rate than a regular full-timer, so the true "cost" is maybe 1/2 or 1/3. For associates, there are no out-of-pocket costs -- the time-critical stuff gets done by someone else, and the stuff that isn't time-critical waits for their return. And since a lot of our stuff is longer-term (and people tend to try not to get pregnant right when they have a big trial coming), there's a lot that is just suspended. Yes, there's an opportunity cost in hours pushed back into later months and years, but no actual out-of-pocket expense.

But more importantly, our associates are telling us they don't WANT more money if it comes at the cost of more mandatory time on the job. We re-evaluate hours targets and salaries regularly, and run various options by the associates (eg, if the target is X, the salary will be Y; if the target is X + 100, the salary will be Y + $5K). They routinely tell us they'd rather have a lower hours target and lower salary, because that gives them the choice to work more and get a bonus, or work less but still be on track.

So, basically, if we took our current benefits and converted them into additional salary instead of leave, we'd be taking away the flexibility that our people are telling us matters most, and replacing it with very little additional pay (far less than they'd make at a bigger firm). Sounds like a lose-lose from here.

Posted by: Laura | June 19, 2008 11:57 AM

I agree, that if you have the benefits at your company and choose not to take them because of the perceived culture at your workplace, then you do have only yourself to blame.

My manager has 3 children, and over the course of his career (before he was manager), chose to miss certain things around the time of the birth of his children. He's now a VP of our division.

I am thankful that he is my boss -- he is very sympathetic to the demands of family life. While I am not paid for maternity leave (company policy), I was told to work it out however I want. Of course, the carrot is that I'm not paid unless I'm working.

This is my second child, and I hope to come back to work AT HOME after 2 weeks.. If I had to go into an office, that would change everything.

Posted by: SJR | June 19, 2008 11:57 AM

>

Um,yeah. For some of us, a job is more than a job. It's what keeps us from living on the street.

I'm leaving a fed job this week to go back to private practice (lawyer). My new firm gives 3 months full paid maternity leave. When I had DD 19 months ago, I had to cobble together annual, sick and borrowed sick leave to get any money coming in...and I now have to pay back the govt for the borrowed leave (it would take 3-4 years to earn it back). I have no problem with that, only that all the talk of great govt benefits is highly overblown by the general public.

Posted by: hockeyfan | June 19, 2008 12:01 PM

Laura who posted at 9:52 am:

I'm working toward revising our small law firm's parental leave policy, and it sounds like you're in the same kind of place as me. Can you give me a few more details about your firm--# of attorneys total, split b/w partners/associates, total # of employees so I can figure out if what your firm is now offering is something I should be looking at??
thanks muchly!!

Posted by: Lisa G. | June 19, 2008 12:01 PM

Also, for those people who get upset about maternity/paternity leave (ie, why should we cater to your needs as parents?), I would argue, fine, let's eliminate all leave for new parents.

In return, let's eliminate your social security and medicaid when you get older. Let's also eliminate the company match to your 401(k). I certainly don't want any of that taken from MY salary, and your retirement is your problem.

I think sick days should be taken away as well. Why is your being sick MY problem? I shouldn't have to pay for time taken by your illness.

Posted by: SJR | June 19, 2008 12:03 PM

1. "He felt pressured to return to work immediately after our children were born." Not the same as being required to return to work.

2. works in a "male-dominated, caucasian-dominated industry." There are probably a few indsustries where this doesn't apply, but I can't think of any of the top of my head.

3. "The share of the premiums paid by the employer are not taxable income to you, so there's no Social Security, Medicare, etc. paid out of that money." All the more reason to scrap the tax system we have. It creates inequity.

Posted by: Makes Sense | June 19, 2008 12:05 PM

Lisa G -- if you want, I'll send my contact info through Leslie.

Posted by: Laura | June 19, 2008 12:05 PM

"In return, let's eliminate your social security and medicaid when you get older. Let's also eliminate the company match to your 401(k). I certainly don't want any of that taken from MY salary, and your retirement is your problem.

I think sick days should be taken away as well. Why is your being sick MY problem? I shouldn't have to pay for time taken by your illness."

I know you're not being serious, but i'd vote for that in a second. Maybe not Medicaid, but absolutely Social Security.

Posted by: Makes Sense | June 19, 2008 12:12 PM

I was one of those reservists who took military leave for annual training, and ended up working 12 hour nights in the ICU for 12 days in a row - not what I would call a vacation. I was also recalled to active duty twice, which I was happy to as my patriotic duty, and ended up working for a long time at about half my civilian salary. Try explaining that to Sallie Mae! What intrigues me is the idea that we can equate 3 months of parental leave with a 3 month sabbatical for the child-free. I doubt that the moms here would call maternity leave a vacation. I would love to have a three month "maternity" leave to finish my doctoral dissertation, but there is no mechanism for it in the federal system (and they don't buy the "I'm giving birth to a dissertation" explanation).

Posted by: babsy1 | June 19, 2008 12:18 PM

ZaaaaZzzzzzzzzzzZeeeeeeee!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2008 12:20 PM

Our auditors are PwC and my husband worked there for years. As early posters said (sorry, this topic makes me really angry so I skipped a lot of posts) - good luck actually taking those benefits. It's great that they have them on paper but try reconciling that with: shorter and shorter SEC deadlines; more and more complicated accounting rules; more and more complex transactions by clients; tighter regulations after the Enron debacle; and the overriding fact that you are in client service and have to jump when the client says jump. The culture isn't perceived; it's an actual response to a demanding external environment. Sorry, but as an accountant if I were looking for a family friendly place PwC (or any of the big four) is the LAST place I would look.

Posted by: tsp 2007 | June 19, 2008 12:21 PM

"PwC recruits 50 percent women associates each year and we know we can't run this firm without women."


And we know all women have children.

It bothers me greatly to hear child care constantly referred to as a "women's issue." It isn't an issue for this woman, but it probably does make employers more reluctant to hire me because of the potential for my needing months of leave. A lot of vocal women who feel entitled to have their reproductive choices subsidized by someone else have worsened my chances of getting a job.

Here's a thought: decide whether you and your spouse can afford a child and want to make the sacrifices. If not, use birth control.

Posted by: Washerwoman | June 19, 2008 12:25 PM

I want to go into my boss's office and say ..."my cat is sick, I'm not coming in today"...I don't want to work longer hours or be sent to Memphis because I'm the only person who doesn't have kids. There is a double standard when it comes to work-life balance and time management for parents vs. child-free. You can have leave for your kids, but then I want leave to travel longer and go home earlier, as well. It all comes down to time. That's how Single/child-free Co-Workers and men with SAHMs see the workplace.

Posted by: joiedevivre | June 19, 2008 12:26 PM

"That's how Single/child-free Co-Workers and men with SAHMs see the workplace. '

Funny, when I was a man with a SAHM for a wife I never saw the workplace that way.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 19, 2008 12:30 PM

Leslie,

The policy when I left read that the company supported telecommuting with the approval of the manager. The manager had veto power, and the partner did not enforce the spirit of the policy. It's not as simple as filling out an HR form. Maybe that has changed.

It was a period of severe downsizing. I was in a professional position serving internal clients. I was not a rainmaker for the company. Is there something you don't get about headcount and budget? I'm not trying to be snarky, but honestly, you seem to be writing off the complexity of economic realities. Do you only have memory of the rah-rah 90s when the Dow broke another 1000 points every other week (it seeemed) and companies were paying big bucks to hire anyone with a pulse.

It seems to me that you're blaming women for choosing not to file lawsuits. I would have been trading leaving my newborn to return to an inflexible workplace for leaving my newborn to take on a large company with many more financial resources than I had.

Please share more about what personal costs you have paid in taking on a corporation.

Posted by: marian | June 19, 2008 12:39 PM

I'm now a Fed after almost 15 years as a contractor, and I'm finding that I would have been better off staying a contractor until after my maternity leave. Both of my previous private companies offered me the option to buy short-term disability insurance, which I did, and it covered 60% pay for 6 weeks after childbirth. The Federal Government doesn't even have this optional coverage--serious bummer when I've only had a couple of months to accrue annual and sick leave. I'll receive about 1.5 weeks of pay from saved leave and will arrange to pay my usual deductions since I won't get a check for the remaining 10.5 weeks of FMLA leave.

As an employer, the Federal Government should at least make it possible for us to plan ahead for various potential disabilities, whether it's childbirth or any other short-term recovery.

Posted by: CJ | June 19, 2008 12:46 PM

Leslie,

You also haven't addressed the issue of editorial publishing whatever the PR departments of their advertisers churn out.

I stopped bothering to read Working Woman's best companies list long ago. As I recall, just about every employer that made the list had a full-page ad somewhere else in the issue.

Posted by: marian | June 19, 2008 12:49 PM

"A lot of vocal women who feel entitled to have their reproductive choices subsidized by someone else have worsened my chances of getting a job."

Ummmm, wow. Up until about 30 years ago, no one would have hired you, period, because you had a uterus. And it was all perfectly legal, and there wasn't a damn thing you could have done about it -- because everyone knew women just get married, get pregnant, and quit, so why waste time and effort on them? Those "vocal women" that you b!tch about are the ones that gave you the opportunity to walk through that door in the first place.

Posted by: Laura | June 19, 2008 12:55 PM

I'm working for a small non-profit not subject to FMLA. Our "official" policy--well, let's just say our Employee Handbook has been "in revision" for over a year now, so no one knows what any actual policies are. We do have company-paid STD coverage, so I get 60% pay for 6 weeks (8 weeks if a c-section). I'm taking an additional 4 weeks, using vacation and unpaid leave. They might have granted me more unpaid time if I'd asked for more, but 10 weeks seems about right to me. We have no paternity leave policy or adoption policy--the only paid leave comes from STD. It's likely an unpaid leave would be approved if asked for, though. (But who really knows, without any written policies?!)

My DH is a Fed, and he's taking 6 weeks. He's allowed to use "future" sick leave, so his will all be paid 100%.

Posted by: newslinks | June 19, 2008 12:57 PM

Amen, Laura! An excellent point.

Posted by: SJR | June 19, 2008 1:16 PM

"If your company has these generous policies and you don't take advantage of them, you only have yourself to blame. And you are letting down everyone else -- people who don't have these benefits or can't take them for a legitimate reason -- but not showing that you have the right and the self-confidence to be a good employee and a good parent at the same time."
Posted by: Leslie | June 19, 2008 11:28 AM

I very much disagree!!! My husband worked for a very well-known DC company that claims to be very family friendly. When he told his female boss that he would like to take paternity leave, her reply was "I never had help when I had my kids!" She tried to deny his request but was told by the legal dept that she couldn't. My husband's career started to go downhill on that very day. My husband repeated his request for paternity leave for the birth or our second child. Meanwhile, career is still going south. Six months later after "good" performance reviews all this time, he starts having meetings about his performance. Within six months, he is offered a package to leave if he signs papers that he won't sue the company and won't make any of this public. After reviewing with a lawyer, he took the money and ran.

My husband and I and his attorney are very certain that all of this had to do with "taking advantage of benefits." Benefits that were not meant to be taken advantage of. Benefits that were only meant to be on the books to provide good PR to entice new employees. So I very much diagree with you Leslie! People should think twice in some companies about using these benefits.

In our case, being forced out of the company was exactly what my husband needed. He decided to start his own business and is much happier. But this came at the cost of a lot of angst and anger.

Posted by: 12SLP34 | June 19, 2008 1:25 PM

I want to add something different to this discussion. My mother had a debilitating back injury on the job and went on Workman's Comp. She was bed bound for a year with various doctor's appointments, a steroid treatment that nicked a nerve, and 2 surgeries. The workman comp law is to save the job for the employee, as they were hurt in the performance of duties for the company. Eventually they fired her for not healing fast enough. While they still cover ongoing medication treatment, she was left without a job and few prospects considering the injury she sustained. She luckily did find something that she enjoys. So, I ask, what about employer's paying for injuries on the job, how long should benefits last, should the job be held until the employee says they won't come back, etc?

Posted by: FloridaChick | June 19, 2008 1:30 PM

ArmyBrat, you are lucky. I am a woman working in a male dominated field and I can tell you that many men had terrible opinions about working women and benefits they would receive. Also, it was expected for men to be on calls even if their wife had a child that morning. It was like a badge of honor. Kind of sick really.

Posted by: Thought | June 19, 2008 1:30 PM

glad that others are pointing out that these benes may exist on paper and are often praised in the media, but they are hard to get for 'regular' employees who are not 'stars.' Much like those surveys of 'best companies for working moms' which apparently survey only the executive level moms. Most workplaces still fall under the big talk no action heading on this score.I'd love to see Leslie talk to someone, not a gungho manager, who has actually gotten the benes and not been penalized later.

Posted by: ritamae | June 19, 2008 1:40 PM

I agree with Leslie that the cultural norms that lead to benefits looking great on paper but not in reality will only change when brave people (men especially) are willing to take advantage of all that's offered to them. As a woman expecting my first child, to some extent I have no choice but to make some career sacrifices. I have no choice but to take some time off from work to physically recover. And my career has suffered somewhat during the last few months of my pregnancy as I've been unable to fly on international trips--an important part of what my job normally entails. But I'm having a hard time convincing my husband to take advantage of the time off he's allowed when our baby is born. He's been working less than a year as a contractor in a management position with a military-related (read: heavily male) employer. He has accumulated over 250 hours of sick leave, which he has been told he can use to "care for family members" after the baby's born. But he is hesitant to do so because he's not sure how it will be perceived or how it will impact his career. In my opinion, if more men (particularly those, like my husband, who are in management positions) did take advantage of these benefits when offered, it would help make the playing field a bit more level for working moms. In our nearly 6 years of marriage, things have always seemed pretty equal to me in terms of sacrificing for and supporting each other's careers. I guess I find it difficult now that I don't have a choice but to make some career sacrifices for our family, but my husband does have a choice and seems unwilling to make it. It's a relatively small issue, but I'm worried it will become a pattern.

Posted by: Mom2B | June 19, 2008 1:53 PM

I want to go into my boss's office and say ..."my cat is sick, I'm not coming in today"...I don't want to work longer hours or be sent to Memphis because I'm the only person who doesn't have kids. There is a double standard when it comes to work-life balance and time management for parents vs. child-free. You can have leave for your kids, but then I want leave to travel longer and go home earlier, as well. It all comes down to time. That's how Single/child-free Co-Workers and men with SAHMs see the workplace.

Posted by: joiedevivre | June 19, 2008 12:26 PM

_________________________________

The "I want the same amount of time off as parents get in parental leave to care for my cat/relax/travel/whatever" argument raised in this post is, in my view, a little silly, but it does raise some difficult underlying management issues.

Say there's a project that has to be assigned - it's a great opportunity with a valued client, and would provide excellent experience, contacts and career advancement, but will require both travel and a significant time committment. The two employees to whom the project can be assigned are (i) a single woman, and (ii) a married woman with a small child. Both women are the same age, and both are well respected. Should the manager take marital/parental status into account when assigning the project? Is it fair to assign a project that will take up a lot of time (and eat into nights and weekends) to the single woman, simply because she doesn't have a child at home? On the other hand, is it fair to exclude the married mother from an opportunity that could boost her career simply because she has a child?

This is obviously an overly simplified example, but I (and others, I'm sure) are faced with similar situations every day, and I'm curious to see how others would deal with them.

Posted by: dcd | June 19, 2008 1:57 PM

Thought - I have no doubt there are people like that; I've known some. I had a boss once whose wife also worked for the company. When work was shut down for three days due to a massive blizzard, they made arrangements for their only child to stay with friends so that they could have three days of peace and quiet to put together a new business plan to pitch to upper management once the weather had cleared. But then they were both like that, not just him.

I've had jobs where I traveled, a lot (like 47 trips outside the US in 35 months - I recently had to go count them). But I was the company CTO and it was made clear to me that those were the job requirements regardless of my marital or child status. They did let me work out of the house a LOT when I wasn't traveling, so it balanced out a little, but I did ultimately leave the company.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 19, 2008 2:00 PM

How in the world does he already have 31+ days of sick leave accrued after working there less than a year?!

i think part of the problem is this "all or nothing" mentality. He might be comfortable taking 2 weeks off, for example, but not a full month. Regardless of the time allotted, he shouldn't feel pressured to take the maximum just because he technically could.

Posted by: to mom2B | June 19, 2008 2:00 PM

"Should the manager take marital/parental status into account when assigning the project?"

I'm not a lawyer, but according to our HR department doing so would be illegal job discrimination and would subject the company to a lawsuit.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2008 2:02 PM

I had our first child while working at a large public university as a post-doc. (Post-doc is what you do between finishing your PhD and getting a long term faculty position). I had been working there for 6 months at the time our daughter was born. As such, there was NO policy that covered my leave. I was fortunate to work for a wonderful man who has children and understands family. Regardless, I took 9 weeks of completely unpaid leave. I felt pressure to return to the job- to get back to the project. If my boss had been a jerk, he could have offered my position to someone else. There was no legal or university policy to protect me. I am expecting our 2nd child in November and will be happily unemployed by that time. I am certainly not happy about the financial consequences for our family, but to have the "leisure" to take more than 9 weeks is something I'm looking forward to.

For those not in academia, my situation was not out of the ordinary. While Post-docs are typically of precisely the age when people are starting families, many universities have no policy to deal with maternity leave, paid or unpaid, for them.

Posted by: JYinVA | June 19, 2008 2:10 PM

A lot of people have complained that the federal government does not offer short-term disability to cover maternity leave. Isn't it possible for people to buy such insurance on their own?

Posted by: Emily | June 19, 2008 2:14 PM

Laura- That would be terrific. I don't know how that works, but I'd appreciate it.

Lisa G.

Posted by: Lisa G. | June 19, 2008 2:14 PM

"How in the world does he already have 31+ days of sick leave accrued after working there less than a year?!

i think part of the problem is this "all or nothing" mentality. He might be comfortable taking 2 weeks off, for example, but not a full month. Regardless of the time allotted, he shouldn't feel pressured to take the maximum just because he technically could."

He transferred to this agency from another one and was able to take his accrued sick time from the last 4 years with him. I am not trying to get him to take all 31 days at once. I guess it's the principle that frustrates me. He argues that taking time off from work to be with the baby will hurt his career. I feel the same way, but I have no choice because I'm the one with the uterus.

Posted by: Mom2B | June 19, 2008 2:15 PM

"Should the manager take marital/parental status into account when assigning the project?"

Absolutely. The manager would be irresponsible not to consider these facts. I'm not a lawyer but I know that the manager would be wise to not state ANY reason for the decision. Just do it.

Posted by: Josey23 | June 19, 2008 2:15 PM

Again under the topic of what exists on paper may not be wise to choose in reality...I work for the Federal Government. I was in a meeting with our Assistant Secretary recently when our Asst. Sec. was told that a male staffer was not available because the male staffer was on paternity leave. The Asst. Sec. laughed, shook his head, and said "I can't believe any self respecting guy would take paternity leave!"

Posted by: 12SLP34 | June 19, 2008 2:29 PM

"Should the manager take marital/parental status into account when assigning the project?"

I'm not a lawyer, but according to our HR department doing so would be illegal job discrimination and would subject the company to a lawsuit.

Posted by: | June 19, 2008 2:02 PM

________________________________

While that's true in theory, it's not really a practical deterent. If the manager doesn't articulate that the decision is based on parental status, there's no way to prove discrimination.

Posted by: dcd | June 19, 2008 2:32 PM

"You also haven't addressed the issue of editorial publishing whatever the PR departments of their advertisers churn out."

I think this is a very good point, as are the people who point out that people who do use benefits "advertised" being punished. I work at a place that has been given an award for the past 3 years for being one of the best family friendly/flexible companies in the DC area. While some departments are allowed flex time, others definitely do not. Mine does not. When you do push for it, you are definitely given an attitude, every excuse in the book to turn it down, and then when they are against a wall repercussions for taking it. You are also given grief for EVER taking sick leave, even after surgery.

Telecommuting is an option that they claim to have, but it was cut completely over a year ago. To my knowledge they have not fixed that in the PR materials.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2008 2:35 PM

@Army Brat - hmm sounds like a certain set of paperwork had to be redone. Ugh, on counting trips. WRT your point about interesting work being given to contractors ... true to a point. I've been both now and what I hated as a contractor was that you could draft, plan, present, etc but you couldn't execute. (of course this is true in any client-contractor relationship to a point). As for the technology angle, agree is all I have to say - ours has been centralized to a large degree, I will leave it you to guess in whose hands.

Posted by: Kate | June 19, 2008 2:39 PM

I guess it's the principle that frustrates me. He argues that taking time off from work to be with the baby will hurt his career. I feel the same way, but I have no choice because I'm the one with the uterus.
Posted by: Mom2B | June 19, 2008 2:15 PM

But also because you're the one with the uterus, it's far more accepted for you to take leave!

How about, instead of seeing it as, "This is our baby, so WE have to take a career hit," you try thinking of it as, "In our partnership, a carrer hit has to be absorbed. It's better for only one of us to be impacted than both, because then we're collectively better off." not sure if that would help you see his position?

His taking off time will not lessen the amount of time you take off, most likely, so he can't lessen the career hit for you in any case.

Posted by: to Mom2B | June 19, 2008 2:41 PM

Disability may not cover pregnancy and post-natal time if the policy does not view pregnancy as a disability. After all, haven't we spent decades talking about pregnancy as a natural state?

As to the single mother vs childfree woman conundrum, I see this every day. "So and so is pregnant, we won't be able to count on her to stay late, finish this project..." Guess who picks up the slack. Oh, and this is in nursing, the quintessential woman's profession, and those remarks came from women nurses.

Posted by: babsy1 | June 19, 2008 2:48 PM

But also because you're the one with the uterus, it's far more accepted for you to take leave!

How about, instead of seeing it as, "This is our baby, so WE have to take a career hit," you try thinking of it as, "In our partnership, a carrer hit has to be absorbed. It's better for only one of us to be impacted than both, because then we're collectively better off." not sure if that would help you see his position?

His taking off time will not lessen the amount of time you take off, most likely, so he can't lessen the career hit for you in any case.

Posted by: to Mom2B | June 19, 2008 2:41 PM

That is a good point. And I realize that marriage/parenting is a partnership that doesn't always seem fair. I think this fact is just becoming so much more real to me now than it has seemed in the past when I considered it theoretically. I'm worried that this will become a trend--one of us has to take a hit, and it ends up being me. By the way, we have very similar salaries and are financially dependent on both incomes.

Posted by: Mom2B | June 19, 2008 2:48 PM

I, too, can confirm the PWC policy. You can count on your career to derail if you use it, since you do not have the billable hours. This especially applies to fathers.

Posted by: chemguy | June 19, 2008 3:09 PM

Babsy, I think federal law stipulates that pregnancy and childbirth MUST be treated as a disability for all disability insurance and policies. I'm no lawyer, though, so please correct me if i'm reading this wrong:

http://law.justia.com/us/cfr/title29/29-4.1.4.1.5.0.21.10.html

(b) Disabilities caused or contributed to by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, for all job-related purposes, shall be treated the same as disabilities caused or contributed to by other medical conditions, under any health or disability insurance or sick leave plan available in connection with employment. Written or unwritten employment policies and practices involving matters such as the commencement and duration of leave, the availability of extensions, the accrual of seniority and other benefits and privileges, reinstatement, and payment under any health or disability insurance or sick leave plan, formal or informal, shall be applied to disability due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions on the same terms and conditions as they are applied to other disabilities.

Posted by: newslinks | June 19, 2008 3:13 PM

"Should the manager take marital/parental status into account when assigning the project?"

Alternatively, if the manager gives the working parent the project with travel, the working parent would then complain that they were insensitive the demands of a family or that their job is so stressful and inflexible. If the working mother doesn't get the assignment, then she may be able to claim that she is being marginalized because she is a parent (especially if it happens regularly)You can't have everything. Someone please help me out here!! I'm getting confused just thinking about it.

Posted by: deedeenyc | June 19, 2008 3:17 PM

deedee, you're not confused; you're just showing your bias.

The working mother will say "If they give it to me, they're insensitive to my situation with the kids and the husband who doesn't help out at home and they're unfair. If they don't give it to me they're marginalizing me because I'm a mother and it's unfair."

The child-less woman will say "If they give it to me it's because they don't respect my wishes and plans and commitments; they just assume I'll work 80 hours a week and travel at the drop of a hat. If they don't give it to me it's because they're showing favoritism to a mother and I'm going to have to do all the dirty work for her anyway."

Pick your poison.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2008 3:21 PM

"While that's true in theory, it's not really a practical deterent. If the manager doesn't articulate that the decision is based on parental status, there's no way to prove discrimination."

If it's just ONE instance, you're right - there could have been any number of reasons. But if there are enough cases to show a trend, then the circumstantial evidence becomes strong enough to show discrimination. "Hmm, there have been 20 cases in the last 3 years when there was a choice between a parent and a childless person, and the childless person was picked for the plum task every single time." The case gets pretty winnable at that point.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2008 3:24 PM

@deedeenyc: You're right - you can't have it all - at least not all at once. Everyone has to do their own internal calculus of what's worth it them and what isn't. Those with a high pressure career may choose no children, to have children late, to utilize paid help to facilitate their balance, off-ramp, whatever. In my rose-tinted world, assignments should be given based on the employee's skills and performance on the job, not the details of their personal life. If presented with the choice, then the employee has to do the internal calculus. And then I wake up. ;-)

Posted by: Kate | June 19, 2008 3:25 PM

Posted by: Mom2B | June 19, 2008 2:48 PM

Mom2B, I think you'd be interested in that "equal parenting" article that was discussed (ad nauseum) on the On Parenting blog the other day -- think this is the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/15/magazine/15parenting-t.html?ref=magazine

Seems like you're up against the "this is how it starts" part. I do think you're right to think over and talk through how this might play into future decisions. I know we've had times (like everyone else) where we each had to take a career hit, but we always went into it understanding that we'd work to find the other a "turn" in the future when life allowed.

Posted by: Laura | June 19, 2008 3:37 PM

Posted by: Mom2B | June 19, 2008 2:48 PM

Mom2B, I think you'd be interested in that "equal parenting" article that was discussed (ad nauseum) on the On Parenting blog the other day -- think this is the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/15/magazine/15parenting-t.html?ref=magazine

Seems like you're up against the "this is how it starts" part. I do think you're right to think over and talk through how this might play into future decisions. I know we've had times (like everyone else) where we each had to take a career hit, but we always went into it understanding that we'd work to find the other a "turn" in the future when life allowed.

Posted by: Laura | June 19, 2008 3:37 PM


Thanks--and sorry if this is straying off the topic of leave policy. My husband and I did read and discuss that article. And he's a really great husband and eager to be a good, fully engaged father. Part of my frustration is not with my husband but with the situation--feeling like I'm giving 110% at work but that my career is becoming less satisfying, because right now (and for the next several months if I breastfeed) I physically can't take on the interesting overseas assignments that have made this job exciting for me and that may have positioned me for promotions, etc. I am hoping that, in the not-so-distant future, I'll have those opportunities again and maybe even be able to be permanently based overseas (husband says he would be willing to follow me there if that's the case).

Up until now, I feel we've had a very equal partnership--a la Marc and Amy Vachon--and my ideal would be to keep it that way. But I'm a little worried we'll fall into a routine where his career comes first. I guess this is the first real test of our marriage as a give-and-take partnership!

Posted by: Mom2B | June 19, 2008 4:05 PM

My two cents: I don't work at PwC, but a good friend who is pregnant is on the non-accounting side and has not had a problem (thus far) and works with several woman who have children who are have flexible schedules. Perhaps things are different depending on where you work. I was very surprised by the amount of leave that she gets - seems very family friendly so far.

Posted by: Betty | June 19, 2008 4:12 PM

Mom2B -- if it makes you feel any better, we've made it through three layoffs/plant shutdowns in 12 years (he's high-tech), including one that required me to quit and scrounge a new (boring!!) job halfway across the country. It was hard, but the kind of communication and commitment that you're talking about got us through (and now I'm back where I wanted to be to boot!).

Posted by: Laura | June 19, 2008 4:12 PM

I found that when I worked for PwC, flexible arrangements and leave were OK for receptionists, admin assistants, HR, payroll, and IT, but not for client service. Managers and partners always used the excuse that the client would suffer if they offered us flexibility. In fact, at one point I spoke with my manager regarding my travel schedule since I was doing the majority of the out of town travel for my small client group which included Sunday travel, and he responded with "some of us have it worse than you, be happy you aren't gone over the entire weekend." BTW this man maybe saw his kid two nights during the week if he was in town.

I definitely think the big firms do offer some great options/events. In fact our office featured women's networking lunches, but if you looked at who signed up to attend, no one from client service was there. Two associates working at one of my clients asked to attend, but were told it would impact the client too much if they went.

Posted by: to Betty | June 19, 2008 4:54 PM

I currently work for PwC and can say some of the comments are not correct. Both the maternity and paternity (which I have used fully twice) are exempted from chargeable hours. Said a different way, you don't have to make up the leave hours to meet chargability goals. I know it wasn't this way several years ago. Today, the firm is very serious about people having the freedom to take the leave.

Posted by: Tom | June 19, 2008 6:03 PM

"New mothers are being hit by a cost-cutting move among employers"

AS a cost-cutting move, my husband's job was eliminated. This country's economy is on shaky ground these days - complaining about months of paid maternity leave is starting to sound a bit excessive when so many people are losing their jobs.

AS a fed, we get plenty of leave for maternity purposes. People just seem to want to have a seperate category so that they can return to work and still have vacation and sick time on the books. Save your leave. Here's a novel idea - save your money. For years women have had babies without all this paid maternity leave. You are pregnant for 9 months and people plan for a lack of income during the first few months of the babies' lives.

Someone above mentioned that people try not to become pregnant if they are expecting a big trial. Then try not to become pregnant until you have saved the leave and/or money to afford an extended maternity leave.

Posted by: lurker | June 19, 2008 6:57 PM

Accidents do happen, you know. Only abstimence is 100% effective. Or should all fetuses be aborted unless the parents can prove their financial stability?

Posted by: babsy1 | June 19, 2008 8:21 PM

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