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Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation backtracks on one-year parental leaves (qz.com)
198 points by prostoalex 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 393 comments





> [heading] How do they manage in Canada?

> In Canada, companies have had no option but to make 52-week parental leaves work, when requested, since 2000. The question Canadian companies ask isn’t “Can we do it?” but “How do we do it?”

Okay, so... how do they do it? They never answer the question.

If you have say, a CFO or a specialist mechanic (that you only need 1 of, but definitely need) and they take a year off, what do you do? Just go without a CFO/mechanic for the year? Or do you start the hiring search, bring in another person as a temp CFO for a year? What if you can't find a temp, so you hire someone? Is the person entitled to their old job back? Do you fire the new person or the old one?

What if the person takes parental leave again after 1 month back? Do you accept that you've torpedoed some role? Do you try to slowly phase out this person's job description and offload their work onto their coworkers?

More succinctly, what if someone is definitely necessary in the near-day-to-day, and does not do work that is interchangeable with other employees?

I'm not trying to make some kind of gotcha. I really don't know the answer, and I figured the article would answer what seem like extremely obvious questions that arise, but it didn't.

I suspect that firms have learned to deal with it, but by doing things like passively selecting against women and younger people for critical roles. Is that how they manage? Is that an improvement?

There's also something unsettling about "here's how [countries where the native birth rate is pretty much 0 or 1 babies] do parental leave!" feels a bit like... the women already did half the corporation's work for them.


Surprisingly few people are actually trying to answer this question on this thread. The answer is straightforward: you either structure your organization so that there are enough overlapping responsibilities to account for parental leaves (e.g. good business practice of not making a fragile organization), or you hire a temporary employee explicitly on a 1 year "parental leave" contract.

The labour market is quite good, and there is no shortage of qualified individuals for almost all positions (CFO, specialists included). Often, a good temp ends up getting another position at the same company after doing the 1-year contract. There is also a small cottage industry of successful individuals who basically take such jobs.

Maybe hard to accept for some, but the world doesn't end when people go on leave to have kids.

It also turns out that most people (that I know) are quite happy to buy into this particular social contract. There is a tacit understanding that you might have to pick up the slack a bit for someone else, but one day you might need the same in return - borrowing against the future is another way to think about it.

Source: Canadian, have worked in organizations and involved in hiring policies where this is successful.


Another consequence that I observed in Canada is that employers have shifted a bit from full-time employees to perpetually renewing contracts. So exactly like that example you gave, the good temp finds another “position” which happens to be a one year contract at the same firm (not necessarily filling in for a leave). This contract gets renewed each year, and the company is not on the hook to “keep the spot open” for a year when the employee has a child. They just don’t renew the contract and hire another contractor. I knew several people in this position. (I believe one actually worked for the federal government, ironically.)

IMO this unintended consequence isn’t often discussed. IIRC it’s also an issue in France, where because it’s nearly impossible to fire someone, you’ll basically never hire full time employees if you can avoid it, especially if they’re young and unproven.


>The answer is straightforward: you either structure your organization so that there are enough overlapping responsibilities to account for parental leaves (e.g. good business practice of not making a fragile organization)

Sure, but once one person takes parental leave you're back to being fragile on this one aspect.

>The labour market is quite good, and there is no shortage of qualified individuals for almost all positions (CFO, specialists included).

I heavily disagree here. There are plenty of jobs that basically work because of the unique set of skills that a person brings to the table. It might be possible to manage with other people filling in, but it's often not the same.

>There is a tacit understanding that you might have to pick up the slack a bit for someone else, but one day you might need the same in return - borrowing against the future is another way to think about it.

Except for the people that won't get this benefit, because they won't or can't have kids.


> Sure, but once one person takes parental leave you're back to being fragile on this one aspect.

That's the point! I'm not sure if you're arguing for not taking any action against fragility (since it's going to happen) or arguing for infinite redundancy - there's plenty of room between those 2 extremes. Your argument sounds a lot like "Sure, but once you lose a disk in your array / a node in your HA cluster, you're back to being fragile"

bluecalm 10 days ago [flagged]

It's surely doable in big organizations but small businesses it's an overwhelming cost even if the government pays the salary of the worker on a leave (the only way it can really work). Maybe the answer to that problem is that really important employees who make a lot of money shouldn't be hired as normal workers but as contractors. Something like: if you get 3x more average salary then you are important but you only get paid if you work and standard protections don't apply. If you get a normal salary standard protections apply but then we will hopefully be able to find replacement for you at reasonable cost. It would be nice if I at least don't nee to re-hire you after covering big costs of getting your replacement up to speed.

If I am looking for 3rd programmer in my 2 person small company I will not risk hiring a young woman as getting a new employee to the stage where they contribute value is a huge cost. If I am hiring a cleaning lady or social media specialist then I won't have problems because I will easily find the replacement on the market and they can be productive from day one. If you think it's immoral, think again. I have responsibilities towards my family to provide for them. I won't take risk which can ruin my source of income for the sake of someone's children. What is immoral is forcing employers to cover that risk.


> If I am looking for 3rd programmer in my 2 person small company I will not risk hiring a young woman

Ignoring the fact that this kind of discrimination is flat out illegal, you are forgetting to consider that the Canadian policy allows males to take parental leave as well, so the excuse for the discrimination isn't even logically consistent.

Personally, having lead teams of people ranging from experienced professionals to interns still in school, I find it extremely hard to imagine a small business that is such a special snowflake that "getting a new employee to the stage where they contribute value is a huge cost". I could get interns to be productive in a day or two. In many fields of work, such as early education, there are standardized accreditations so an employer can basically just pick and choose from a pool of qualified individuals who will be ready-to-work on day 1.

As the other poster said, standard fare in parental leaves is to hire a contractor for a 1 year contract. By the end of the year, worst case is your business grew 0%, you get your full-time employee back and it's business as usual. A more realistic scenario is your business grew by some amount that now allows you to hire the temp person full time.


>you are forgetting to consider that the Canadian policy allows males to take parental leave as well, so the excuse for the discrimination isn't even logically consistent.

But they are much less likely to take this parental leave.

>Personally, having lead teams of people ranging from experienced professionals to interns still in school, I find it extremely hard to imagine a small business that is such a special snowflake that "getting a new employee to the stage where they contribute value is a huge cost".

Well, everyone else doesn't get to always run wildly successful small businesses. Most small businesses fail. I imagine that if you yank out a significant portion of their workforce that they'll be even more likely to fail.

>By the end of the year, worst case is your business grew 0%, you get your full-time employee back and it's business as usual.

Aka your small business shuts its doors, because the market has moved on and you couldn't keep up. Half the businesses fail within the first 5 years. Only a third of businesses survive 10 years.


> But they are much less likely to take this parental leave

If you want to talk about likelihoods, consider that in most companies, the chance that an employee of any gender will leave for a random reason is much higher than someone of any gender taking parental leave. Trying to skirt the law to "optimize" for least parental leaves is kinda like sending a memo to your employees telling them to always run red lights and jaywalk to get to work faster. It's one of those "not even wrong" kinds of things.

> Most small businesses fail

This is a non sequitur. Businesses fail for all sorts of reasons. Your restaurant staff ghosting you, not enough clients, spending stupidly after raising money, etc. If your business fails due to a parental leave of all things, let me tell you, you were probably severely delusional about its viability to begin with.

> Aka your small business shuts its doors

I believe I mentioned a fitting example where this could not be farther from the truth (early education)


But none of the things you mentioned are different between men and women. Parental leave is simply a risk factor on top of what you mentioned.

>If your business fails due to a parental leave of all things, let me tell you, you were probably severely delusional about its viability to begin with.

Let's take an extreme case: a 1 person business. If I, the business owner, take parental leave then my business is pretty much guaranteed to fail. The rate gets lower the more employees and capital you have, because you can mitigate the risk, but many businesses are susceptible to this risk, because they simply don't have the resources to mitigate it. That doesn't really tell you much about the viability of the business. It says much more about the resources the business had available. Not everyone is born with a silver spoon in their mouth.


> But none of the things you mentioned are different between men and women.

That's exactly the point: none of the serious risk factors are strongly correlated with gender. (And you're forgetting the argument that young men are slightly more likely to be able to find another competitive job than young women because people like you are more willing to hire them, therefore men are at slightly higher risk of leaving.)

If you want to construct an argument in the service of the conclusion "I don't want to hire young women" you certainly can, but please admit that's what you're doing.


I work as a programmer in Canada. In the past 10 years of my career, exactly one employee has taken the full parental leave at my workplace (a woman), and several male employees have taken parental leaves from 5 weeks to 4 months. In addition, two male employees were out on sick leave for sport-related injuries that they essentially caused themselves during the practice of their hobby, each for several months. All sports and accident related injuries are more common in men than women because women are more careful. Some common injuries can permanently damage the brain (unlike pregnancies). I really don't think women are more at risk than men of taking leave as programmers in Canada -- for different occupations it is different, for example in female dominated orgs there's usually a "culture" around motherhood and taking time off etc and it's almost a status symbol so people do it more. Not so in programming.

I actually have a friend who runs a restaurant with her husband. It's an _extremely low margins_ business with brutally long hours. She got pregnant and eventually took time off (she went back to China for a few months to get her parents to help with the baby). When she came back a few months later, surprise surprise, the business was still there. Did they have worries? Sure, stress from wait staff turnover, an air conditioner that was too expensive to fix, chairs. But leaving for an extended period of time to decompress from work stress was something her husband supported despite the temp long distance relationship and the extra burden on himself because he knew that would help them cope better in the long term.

Let's be honest, anyone can come up with ridiculous hypothetical situations where "obviously" parental leave is the only evil in the world and must be banished. But at the end of the day, they're just that: hypotheticals with no basis in reality. I've seen businesses succeed and fail and I've seen parental leaves in these businesses. Parental leaves are simply not as deciding of a factor as one might like to fantasize, and anyone who wants to argue against them might want to look at the silver spoons in their own mouths before casting stones at others.


Restaurants aren't exactly businesses where people become difficult to replace. Imagine you had a company that was trying to start a video service and the expert on ffmpeg goes on parental leave half way through. Good luck replacing somebody like that if you're not in a tech hotspot.

> Imagine you had a company that was trying to start a video service and the expert on ffmpeg goes on parental leave half way through

Typically you get like 3-6 months notice on a parental leave, so you've got plenty of time to find a contractor/consultant, compared to the standard 2 week notice from the much more likely scenario of your expert quitting for greener pastures. If you have such high risk riding on a single employee, you're probably the one to blame: why aren't _you_ (or an equity partner) the expert? Do you not have anything else whatsoever that could be done in the meantime if core development halted/slowed for 6 months? Do you realize an ffmpeg expert can earn twice as much just about anywhere other than your yet-to-be-profitable startup and gets recruiter spam from big tech companies on linkedin every month? Can you even afford benefits and severance for a full time employee in the first place? etc.

Blaming a hypothetical business failure on a parental leave is really just finding a scapegoat for one's inability to take responsibility for their own failings.

Being in a tech hotspot is irrelevant. I've worked remotely for people in Boulder with a coworker living in Vermont. Again, if you want to run a high tech business from rural Wisconsin with no remote workers, that's on you, and has nothing to do with parental leaves.


> Imagine you had a company that was trying to start a video service and the expert on ffmpeg goes on parental leave half way through. Good luck replacing somebody like that if you're not in a tech hotspot.

I don't know anything about ffmpeg and I am confident I can not only learn it but train someone in it in two months. Bad employers hire people for their current skills, and are caught unprepared when people leave for any reason (including realizing they're a bad employer). Good employers hire people with the expectation of training them and letting them grow into new roles. Bad employers rely on the brains of individuals. Good employers document their processes, enforce knowledge-sharing procedures (code reviews and runbooks and support rotations, in tech), and otherwise proactively mitigate business risk.


> Imagine you had a company that was trying to start a video service and the expert on ffmpeg goes on parental leave half way through.

Imagine you had that same company and your expert was hit by a bus and instantly killed. Don't run your business with a single point of failure.


If someone is literally critical to your business, they need to have equity or some other mechanism to align incentives or you risk unaligned incentives torpedoing your business. This is the case with any business, regardless of parental leave laws.

Imagine you had a company that was trying to start a video service and the expert on ffmpeg goes on parental leave half way through.

How is that different than that person getting hired by Google half way through? Other than the fact that with parental leave you generally get 4-6 month warning that it's coming and with someone change jobs you might not even get 4-6 weeks. Also at least in my experience people on parental leave will answer the phone/email if its important.


Of course they are less likely to go on leave — they work for a guy who doesn’t hire women in non-disposable roles, because his family will starve if a female professional gets pregnant.

Presumably the female custodians and admins just get purged.


Small business doesn't have "custodians and admins". It has a few people every one of them absolutely crucial for survival. Have you ever started a company without outside funding? Usually you have some savings, maybe for a few months and a lot of hope. Someone quitting in the middle of that to take care of the child means you won't make it.

I have. I put the company in the ground when we couldn’t resolve a dispute and left.

We had our first child at 32. (I took 5 months off as a director level manager when my wife went back to work.) When is a woman deemed safely in old maid status and ok to hire?

When I was in this position as a principal, our biggest threat was good junior tech staff being snatched up by big companies or being lured into a government gig with a great pension plan.

I get the risk/concern, but the Mad Men era attitude projects risk. As a guy, it would give me pause about working for the firm. On top of everything else, you’re missing out on fantastic talent.


So will someone quitting to get a different job, being hit by a bus, etc.

This is an unrealistic description of reality.

Most small companies do not actually worry about growth, they worry about staying in business and small things matter.


I think the most blatant scenario involves a code-base where only one engineer knows where the skeletons are buried. Yes it's bad architecture, caused by sustained bad development choices, but it is RAMPANT in our industry. If said engineer gets hit by a bus, or goes on parental leave, the company is fucked. They deserve it, but they are still fucked and they are going to kick and scream whatever excuse they can think of to prevent these scenarios from being legislated into higher frequency.

Sure, and it's good for society for those companies to fail.

That's one thing that I think is missing in many argument about business policy. Many times someone says, with this policy passed, my business will be less productive and might even fail. And we're too scared to say out loud that that's a good thing.

Markets works best when there is accurate and open communication of information, and it's generally very difficult to know how a prospective employer really approaches technical debt (or the equivalent for other disciplines) and business risk. I want to work for the company that's willing to confront past mistakes and not drowning in them, and, if possible, the company that made fewer past mistakes in the first place. This company is also more likely to be successful at delivering the very benefits for which society recognizes companies at all (producing goods and services, creating reliable jobs, advancing the state of knowledge, etc.). So, all other things being equal, it's in society's interest for me to find this company accurately, and with a limited labor pool it is almost certainly in society's interest for there to just be one competent company tackling a problem than two companies, one of which is incompetent.


Businesses failing can hurt a lot of people. Thousands can be laid off, many of whom might not be in an industry where finding a replacement job is easy. Many organizations arguably exist solely to provide jobs regardless of their inefficiencies (in my view the TSA, and to some extent the US military).

Propping up a bad business that would otherwise fail has two harmful effects:

1. The failure is greater and more impactful if it can't be held off forever. It's a lot better for society for fifty people to be laid off than a thousand. (It's probably better for those fifty people, too: their friends are less likely to be laid off and can provide immediate support, there are probably more open jobs, there's only fifty people competing for them and not a thousand, there's less loss of confidence in the industry, etc.) So failing fast is important. Ideally, you'd fail fast enough that the incompetent founding team loses their jobs and nobody else does.

2. There's usually a limited market / mind share for businesses, and it is hard for new businesses to get traction. The demand for, say, fast food within a given town is fairly fixed - advertising can make more or fewer people interested in it, but certainly there won't ever be more demand than three meals per day per person, and probably it will never get even close to that. So there's a limited labor market for fast food makers in that town. If there's an incompetent company employing a hundred people, and we prop up those jobs, we're likely preventing a more competent company from starting which could hire those same people and provide them with stabler and possibly higher-paying jobs. Worse, if the incompetent company is insolvent because they made bad pricing decisions, that company is probably out-competing other companies with more stable financial situations and preventing them from gaining traction.

So, if you don't want thousands of people to be laid off, it's good for incompetent businesses to fail as quickly as possible.

(The TSA and the military are government organizations, not companies, so the analysis is pretty different. Providing jobs to people for the sake of providing jobs is not a bad thing for government to do; providing that money without making them work is an even better thing for government to do.)


The same developer gets tons of recruiting emails, people everywhere telling him to not stay in the same place for more then 2 years, his probably burned out of working with that horrible code base and would be attracted to work at a different place with a new project, with a new framework and language(and restart the cycle).

So if you are in SV and have 1 essential developer then prepare for him to leave he/ she would do it sooner then later.


Why would you avoid hiring her? It takes 9 months to deliver the baby, plenty of notice to find a replacement. If she just quit you have two weeks notice to find someone. In many ways someone going through that situation is most likely to return and stay long term adding additional value.

Do you make the same tough decision and avoid hiring members of the US National Guard, or the Army/Navy/Air Force Reserve, as well, simply because they may be called away for a year or so to serve their country and similarly expect their job to be there when they return?

(This is not a facetious question. I think that these are comparable and at least equably honorable. Parental leave is a form of serving your country by investing in the foundations of the future of your country.)


Or humans. Does he hire humans? humans can and do fall sick from time to time. Ew.

Maybe he recognizes that different humans have different probabilities of being suddenly unable to work for extended periods of time, and is able to weigh various factors (rationally or not, fairly or not) instead of being a 100% all-or-nothing strawman.

I've got the same probabilities as my wife to go on parental leave. It so happens that when she has a son, I've got a son too!

MAGIC


He may be one of the bosses that believes if you're conscious you're healthy enough to be at work

> It's surely doable in big organizations but small businesses it's an overwhelming cost

And yet, there they are ... still having small businesses, and consulting shops, and all manner of people continuing operations in the face of such start conditions ;)

edit: Holy crap, I hadn't even finished reading your comment

> If I am looking for 3rd programmer in my 2 person small company I will not risk hiring a young woman as getting a new employee to the stage where they contribute value is a huge cost.

wat ... this is just ... this is a terrible thought process and ideology.


Don't like the outcome of his thought-process as well but to be fair, it's just logical self-interest which is exactly his #1 job if he's running his own business.

The answer to this in my opinion is a job-market with less job-security regulation (so that "getting new workers up to speed" will be the norm not the exception for companies) coupled with a tighter social security net (maternity leave paid for by the government) and of course a right-to-return (although, if "getting up to speed" is the norm, it might not be needed anyways).


> it's just logical self-interest which is exactly his #1 job if he's running his own business.

This is precisely one of the cultural obstacles to correct. Dropping in a 1 year policy without substantial organizational preparation and planning is -- surprise -- doomed to fail. Like every single other aspect of organizational planning.

The problem in the US is we simply do not value these kinds of things. We value individuality foremost and I believe its among the top reasons parental leave is incomprehensible to many people.


Someone running a small business is usually most concerned about survival, not individuality. And if you think small businesses first priority should be substantial organizational preparation and planning then it's clear you've never tried to start a company. The main focus for most entrepreneurs is survival in face of the market. Fail at that and you are doomed to fail. I'm both a parent and a small business owner and I think 1-year parental leave is ridiculous.

You run a business an employee can quit with 2 weeks notice. If preparing for that requires substantial organization preparation you will be doomed to fail. Parental leave gives you months of notice time with periods of overlay where training could happen. It should be easier.

If the law applys to everyone then wouldn’t that one particular part of the playing field be even?

It’s a fixed cost. The greater your resources the less it matters. So like every other fixed cost it makes things harder for all companies but it’s much easier for large companies to deal with. Like how GPDR is great for Google.

That just means that more businesses fail that could have otherwise succeeded.

You could say the same thing about minimum wage, safety and environmental regulations, child labor laws, workers taking weekends, etc.

At some point, as a society we set a minimum bar on what kind of successful businesses we want to employ people. What that minimum bar is can be debated, but "more businesses will fail" is not exactly a straightforward indicator of the value of a regulation.

Plus, certain types of labor laws, particularly those around leave, only apply to businesses above a certain size.


Man, small businesses often don't have any "organizational planning". You work every day and hope the others (maybe one, two or three people) do as well. You go by and hope for the best. Most often you fail or don't really make much. Once you are the stage of "organizational preparation and planning" it's a different ball-game. The problem is that you have to somehow start and most of the world isn't full of VS money where starting means you get a budget of several million. You mostly start with whatever little savings you have and hope your first orders come fast enough so you can pay bills when savings dry up.

At that stage you are not hiring full time employees. You give out short contracts with promises for bigger ones. Someone always leaves and you are not paying the salary of the persompn on leave.

> We value individuality foremost and I believe its among the top reasons parental leave is incomprehensible to many people.

Uh... that's not valuing the individual (or individuality, the ability to make choices freely for one's self). The lack of paid parental leave adds an outside a government mandated influence to the decision of whether to have children or not.

Unless... you're talking about the individual rights of the corporation to not have to pay parental leave, through some twisted extension of citizen's united. As a society it benefits us to encourage people to have children, so making the process even more difficult is a bit silly.


You don't have to be a corporation to hire people - think sole proprietorship.

I've been thinking that it might be an interesting experiment to apply some of the restrictions that we have only to corporations, but allow more leeway to individuals. So e.g. if you're a sole proprietor, you can arbitrarily discriminate in employment or service (it's your personal freedom of association), but if you register as an LLC, then that comes with the usual strings attached (since an artificial entity doesn't have proper personhood and any rights associated with that).

I suspect most businesses, even small, would still be LLCs.


Parental leave as currently implemented in European countries incentivize having children later in life which is happening resulting in less children overall. There is absolutely no reason employers should be burdened by parental leave. If we as a society decide we want to support parents let's collect enough taxes and have the government pay. If the support is independent of your job status and salary it will remove twisted incentive to wait till your 30s do have children (which is the case when benefits are based on your current salary).

Do you have any source for that?

My parental leave entitlement has been the same since my first job after graduation at 22.


What country? Here it is percentage of your pay (or more precisely it's based on how much social insurance you paid last month and this is based on your current pay). I am under impression it's implemented that way in all of Europe.

You should correct your impressions.

You have made about 23 comments in this discussion, many regarding "your country", but you haven't stated it once. You've then generalised across all of the EU based on the one country.


> This is precisely one of the cultural obstacles to correct.

I have to disagree: If a cultural obstacle at all, to me it's rather labeling civilizational accomplishments like ownership or property rights as a "cultural obstacle".

> We value individuality foremost and I believe its among the top reasons parental leave is incomprehensible to many people

While I can't speak for the US, in Germany we have a pretty generous m/p/x-aterinty leave system. But still only a few fathers take advantage of it. Certainly it's not because of culture (it's not the 1950s anymore). It might be just the plain truth that it is deeper ingrained in us.

Another big factor is the high increase of bachelor degrees. 40% of our high-school students [1] go to college [2], of which 3 out of 4 finish. By the time they finish they are in their mid-twenties and depending on what they've studied [3] will add another two years for a masters degree. In effect you'll get women who enter the job market 10 years later than their mothers did. So when the biological clock ticks louder they are often faced with a dilemma: Either less kids than originally wished for, or give up your first career years in exchange for fitting as much child-bearing in them as possible.

Again, I don't see how individualism is at the epicenter here. Instead I'd take a good look at lack of intelligent regulation (nudging), medicine and misguided education policy.

[1] & [2] since educational systems are complex to translate, I just went with the most aproximate US counterpart

[3] mostly because the job prospects in a given field are non-existent with 'just' a bachelor's degree


Certainly it's not because of culture

It’s precisely because of culture. “Plain truth” is a bit of a sham.


Which is why you'll see increasing pressure for longer paternity leave in places like Norway, so that it's harder to discriminate to avoid dealing with this.

Unless you are running your own small company you are in no position to judge other people. It doesn't sound like it's an ideology but rather necessity.

My partner worked at a 10-person company and took the year off for parental leave. They hired a temp to fill her role, who left when she came back.

I work for a 15-person company and we had a developer take a year off. We hired a temp developer who left when the other dev came back.

Not sure why this is hard to understand?


It's sometimes doable sure. 10-person company is 5x bigger than mine though so it's way easier there. It's also the case that some areas require specialized knowledge and some don't. If I hire someone even very competent it will a few months till they are productive because we work in a very niche area. If you need someone who programs a CRUD website then yeah, it is easier. Just because something is doable in your 10 or 15 person company doesn't mean it's doable for others in their <5 people businesses.

when it comes to a social policy question like parental leave there is no size fits all solution, so we need to ask what we prioritize.

I respect people who want to run very small businesses, but we can't realistically make policy for them if we want to guarantee some basic welfare and labour protection.

Small businesses are often so unprofitable, have so little savings, and are so exposed to risk (as in this pregnancy case), that you realistically need to scrap so much protection just to accommodate them.

So the answer to the question of how to combine very small business and paternal leave is quite simple, you really can't. It's a policy that favours middle-sized and large businesses who generate more profit, suffer less from a few workers dropping out, and can organise these benefits.


> you realistically need to scrap so much protection just to accommodate them.

And why not do so for them specifically? If you still have protections apply to larger companies, then it becomes a matter of choice for employees to choose small or large. But if you apply to everybody, and it kills small businesses, you're strictly worse off - if you can't land a job at one of those larger places, you're outright unemployed.


I mean you could do it, but then you have some different issues at the margins like the incentive to hire people off the books to not fall into a more regulated category.

And also there's a big ethical question here if you create an excemption for small business, because you create a two class workforce where parents in small companies lack what is arguably a very fundamental right.

So I guess it is a complicated issue, but on the specific matter on paternal leave I would argue that a universal protection at the cost of small business activity is preferable. Every parents should have the same rights when it comes to child care.


> And also there's a big ethical question here if you create an excemption for small business, because you create a two class workforce where parents in small companies lack what is arguably a very fundamental right.

The way I see this, the fundamental right here is to have paid parental leave in general, not a right to have it at any particular workplace specifically. Thus, so long as those who need it can get a job that offers it, I don't see any pragmatic reason to require all businesses to do so. So long as it's clear in advance - so people who e.g. don't plan on having children can go seek employment with small businesses. It's not an insignificant part of the population, so why remove an option for them?


Why make employers eat the costs? Just make government pay equal benefits to every mother for x months and don't force employers to keep the position open. This way actually everyone will have the same rights unlike now where how much you get depends on how good a job you managed to land even if you only worked there for a very short time.

There is incentive to re-hire anyway if you have open positions as you get someone already familiar with the work. Forcing employers to do so is a problem for smaller companies having many non-duplicated positions though.


Doesn't that mean you're equally vulnerable to the bus factor?

Allow me to offer a different anecdata.

My friend is a lawyer and works for a small, but somewhat successful canadian firm (which I will not name for obvious reasons).

His boss had hired 4 women in a row.

3 of them went on maternity leave within a short amount of time. 2 out of 3 didn't even bother coming back. The other one came back and quit shortly after.

All the files got dumped on my friend and the boss had to hire 3 new lawyers, had them all go through training and learning the logistics of how the office runs (first as a temp, and then once again as full time employees).

So basically a total of 6 staff rotation within a years time.

Needless to say this was a major nightmare.

My friend told me his boss rather let slip that he will think twice before bringing women onboard..

I was obviously shocked to hear these as I myself am strongly against discrimination but I can't help but to at least sympathise with his boss to a certain degree.


Because many businesses can't afford to do so. I worked at a small company where a senior dev took a year off. His replacement didn't quite fit the same roles as well and the project fell apart. I believe the company fell apart afterwards too.

Well, if your business was in Canada or Europe, you'd have to figure it out. And as a parent who has taken advantage of this, it's worthwhile due to the positive effect it has on the children.

And if that senior dev just left for a better job?

Same thing would've probably happened, but that's not a risk you can really mitigate against. I believe he even had some ownership of the company, so he probably lost out on a bit too.

With all the possible factors: leaving for a better job, falling ill, having a family member fall ill, getting hit by bus, getting poached by a competitor, or taking parental leave -- that last one is hardly even the worst. If you're worried about that, you're not worried enough about real issues.

> If I am looking for 3rd programmer in my 2 person small company I will not risk hiring a young woman as getting a new employee to the stage where they contribute value is a huge cost.

So, OTOH, is a sex discrimination lawsuit, especially when you are blatantly guilty.

Also, most Western jurisdictions with paid or even unpaid but job-protected parental leave policies apply them without limitation by gender.

And these days, youth is not essentially to being a parent (even a natural parent, but parental leave policies usually apply to adoptive parents as well.)


>>So, OTOH, is a sex discrimination lawsuit, especially when you are blatantly guilty.

Yeah, lawsuit or my children not being able to afford college. Oh the choices... I think I am taking the lawsuit, especially that it will be very hard to prove anything with just one employee.

>>Also, most Western jurisdictions with paid or even unpaid but job-protected parental leave policies apply them without limitation by gender.

Maybe in theory, if you looks at statistics of what actually happens in most European countries you will see that women take much longer leaves and often several months medicals during pregnancy as well. I mean I live in one and my male friends usually take at most several days while women usually take close to a year if you count medical leave during pregnancy. I know exactly one couple who split the leave equally. It worked for them but it's definitely not usually happens.


> Yeah, lawsuit or my children not being able to afford college.

I don't think you've researched the costs of the kind of lawsuit at issue for your business if you think that it's less than you'd lose by having the employee in the position take a year off on job-protected leave.


I am not in US, in my country lawyers don't carry a big stick. In US on the other hand I wouldn't need to be sexist as I don't have to promise parental leaves so that would make things easier. Small businesses don't have to offer that till they are big enough so it makes sense for them.

> In US on the other hand I wouldn't need to be sexist as I don't have to promise parental leaves

The US does, indeed, have mandatory job-protected parental leave. It's much shorter (even in the more generous states) than many European countries and in many cases (i.e., federally, though some states differ) unpaid-only, but it's still a thing.


Risk = Probability * Consequence

I don't think he (or she!) is saying that the consequence is low, just that the risk of suffering that consequence is low enough to outweigh it.


I'd posit that making public blanket statements about being willing to break the law increases both probability and consequence, and thus expected value.

Which means I don't have high confidence in the risk assessment in the first place, but thankfully it's not my business :)


You are just bullshitting. By your accounting, if your employee quits, or falls ill for a month or two, which would have the same impact as the training period for the maternal leave replacement, your kids would not be able to afford college [1]?

Does your employee Ski? Because ACL tears are damn common, and medical leave for an ACL tear is up to 3 months.

[1] (which if you're really not in the US should be free anyway)


> especially that it will be very hard to prove anything with just one employee.

As long as your real life identity isn't linkable to this comment, that is.


It is linkable but it's an Internet discussion where I am allowed to speak in hypotheticals and being facetious. I've never hired anyone (it's just original founders and occasionall contractors). I don't like being forced to make sexist decisions or eat the risk so it will likely always be contractors for anything critical. We also have more reasonable justice system here. You need actual proof and you won't be hit by a million dollar fine if someone thinks you might have made a sexist decision. Me describing the reasoning which led me to give up looking for new employees in overdramatized fashion doesn't fly as a proof here.

What other laws are you willing to break in order to run your company? Are you fine with tax fraud?

I'm not sure why the above is getting downvoted. It's a perfectly reasonable question given what the parent comment said.

Yeah, lawsuit or my children not being able to afford college

Run your business better. If an employee leaving—something that can already happen at any time due to causes outwith your control—means your children can’t go to college, then your chances of failure are already sky high.


> If I am looking for 3rd programmer in my 2 person small company I will not risk hiring a young woman as getting a new employee to the stage where they contribute value is a huge cost.

Anybody can leave at any time for any reason. I had much worse luck young male developers out of school and them leaving after a few months than with a developer leaving on maternity leave and coming back.


Yeah, but you need to play the odds. If decision A means 5% chance you can't pay for a good college for your kid and decision B means 2% chance of being in that position which one do you choose? If I run 100+ people firm then the cost is small enough that I can eat it for making the world a better and fairer place and I also get benefits of more inclusive work place. If I run a small 2 people business I will weigh every decision in terms of "what is a chance my family well-being being intact if I do that".

But you're making assumptions and predictions based on nothing. If someone leaves, they leave. If they come back, they come back. Male or female. Makes no difference. You can't control it. You can't predict it.

You imagine a level of control that you simply don't have.

Conversely, there is a net benefit to society that simply cannot be ignored. It's life.


The approach blucalm is offering is nearly the definition of sex discrimination. You can’t play the odds when hiring in protected classes, you need to assess the applicants on an individual basis...

> you need to assess the applicants on an individual basis...

Except that he probably cannot (for example) ask the applicant if they are likely to have kids or use the leave policy in the near future. That would be judging them on an individual basis, but in many jurisdictions it's prohibited.


And someone who is planning on jumping ship for another job isn't going to tell you anything either. So what difference does it make?

Yes. You're either sexist, eat the costs or not hire at all. Quite a tough spot for a very small business. I think the laws should align incentives instead of creating situations like that.

You completely ignore the fact that it makes no difference. You seem awfully comfortable with the idea that a man won't screw you over and a woman will by going on a leave. If you want to be irrational, you might as well not even start a business because it could all be destroyed by hurricanes, floods, or fire too.

So you are saying that you have a higher chance that a young woman will carry a baby than having a young man change for a better paying offer?

I'm one of theses young one out of college and I can tell you, based around me, your stats are clearly wrong ;). Most don't care about babies, but they all certainly care about getting more interesting jobs. I'm Canadian too.


>a higher chance that a young woman will carry a baby than having a young man change for a better paying offer? //

Well surely the woman has all the possibilities the man has (eg changing to a better offer), plus they have the possibility of maternity, logically speaking. I'm considering maternity as a separate issue to child-rearing FWIW.

Quantitatively maternity probably dwarfs the male majority issues (for leaving the work force) such as suicide.

>Most don't care about babies, //

The proportion of humans who don't have basic biological urges associated with reproduction is approximately zero. A more telling statistic is probably "Of those born in 1971, 18 per cent were childless in 2016, when they turned 45." [1]. In the same article the average number of children a woman has by her 30th year is 1.0 in the UK.

[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/24/proportion-women...


If someone leaves I can find a replacement and hope they don't leave. If a women has a baby then I will either need to hire a temp which is more difficult than to hire for full time position or suddenly have 2 positions open (I need to have that when my first employee comes back). For a small few people company having 2 positions open instead of one is often unreasonable cost.

> I will either need to hire a temp which is more difficult than to hire for full time position

We're still talking about programmers, right? Because it is way easier to hire a part-time contract programmer, than it is to hire a full-time programmer. If anything, the best devs are often already freelancing/consulting anyway, and would prefer you hire them this way.


I had to hire a temp for a one year maternity leave replacement. It wasn't particularly difficult and the person I hired didn't want a longer contract and she is great. In fact, I kept her on as-needed contract basis after. She will be helping me smooth other the transition of another employee who just left for a better paying job.

If, in a year, you don't have room to grow your staff by 1, haven't you already failed?

Canada also has paternity leave; and parents can split the leave in any number of different ways as long as it adds up to a year. And yes, men do take advantage of that benefit as well.

A woman will give you five or six months warning before going on mat leave. You'd be lucky to get two weeks out of a young man jumping ship.

He's doing something illegal but I think it's rational. The woman can do everything the man can, but the man won't take paternity in practice.

He can also convince a man wanting to leave with money or opportunities but he can't convince a woman giving birth.

It's kinda super skeevy, but I'm not seeing the inconsistency.


Men switch jobs at higher rates than women do, so it's easy to argue that the OP is taking more risks by hiring exclusively men.

And women at home doing childcare don't become inaccessible the way that men working for a competitor are. They're much more likely to answer if you ask them a question. In my personal experience anyways.


Haha, okay, I’m easy to convince because I really haven’t thought about the problem and I could never see myself needing to reason it out since it’s just illegal and therefore overridden by the objective to ensure my company doesn’t get sued into oblivion.

Surely in this situation you have already decided that the women of childbearing age is the best candidate for the job. You are turning that candidate down and selecting someone you don't like as much. That is a compromise as well. Although to be fair you could have two equally good candidates.

>>If I am looking for 3rd programmer in my 2 person small company I will not risk hiring a young woman as getting a new employee to the stage where they contribute value is a huge cost.

Umm, all other moral and ethical considerations aside, this approach fails spectacularly when the young man takes paternity leave instead :-D


Wow. Just wow.

So, in many European countries, fathers and mothers have a right to substantial amounts of parental leave. Like a year or more. In all of these places small businesses exist. In Sweden, with very extensive parental leave [1], there is a large number of start ups. So obviously, empirically, you must be missing something.

Generally speaking, if your employees care about your business (and getting their job back after the leave) they will not take decisions that destroy this business. Some laws will also vary depending on company size, though parental leave is just such an obvious fundamental need and right that I am not aware of a country where it does.

You might not think of yourself as immoral, but your post is definitely sexist, and I find the viewpoint you take towards your potential employers deeply unethical. Because people like you sometimes end up with power we need democratic states to fight back and keep a sense of perspective.

[1] "New parents in Sweden are entitled to 480 days of leave at 80% of their normal pay. That’s on top of the 18 weeks reserved just for mothers, after which the parents can split up the time however they choose. Swedish dads also get 90 paid paternity days reserved just for them. Out of these 480 days, 60 must be taken by the father or else all are lost. This leave can be taken by the month, week, day or even by the hour."

So fathers are forced to take more paternal leave in Sweden than mothers get in the US.

https://www.dailyscandinavian.com/parental-leave-working-sca...


I want to support women having babies. I just think current regulations put too much burden on the employers especially small ones. I also think it's unfair that a women who decided to have kids just after college doesn't get any (or way less) help that a women who found a job and get pregnant right after. A system set that way encourages women to have children later in life because they will get more benefits then. I think it's backwards and we are all paying the price already.

I just want incentives to be aligned in a way that it doesn't make sense to make sexist decisions when hiring and it doesn't encourage women to postpone motherhood because of how benefits are set.


That's reasonable. But you still have to obey the law in the meantime.

According to the 2018 SBA fact sheet about Sweden by the EU commission [1] Sweden does employ fewer people in small and micro businesses than are employed on average in the entirety of the EU. Small and micro businesses in Sweden employ 46.6% of the workforce, while in EU-28 the percentage is 49.4%. If you add medium businesses to it you get 65.5% for Sweden and 66.4% for EU-28. You can also find some interesting measurements about entrepreneurship in Sweden compared to the EU average int he report.

I'm not saying this specific thing is the reason why Sweden's small businesses employ fewer people, but you can't just ignore this either.

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/docsroom/documents/32581/attachments/28... (PDF)


Those numbers seem close enough that it's hard to conclude that there's a significant effect (especially given that there are many more variables at play here than just parental leave).

Wow, those percentages are really close. From your opening sentence it seemed like you were going to say something like 60% and 20%. Seems there's no point at all :)

The numbers have to be fairly close because they're in the same economic system. Furthermore, Sweden's numbers are included in the average as well.

You said you can't just ignore this either, yet there is nothing to glean from your supposed point. The numbers are far too close, and Europe far too diverse to infer anything. It's a waste of the 30 seconds of life of anyone who reads the post.

Dailyscandinavian seems to have mixed up the numbers a bit.

In Sweden parents get 480 in total together, of which 390 are at 80% (capped at 989 SEK = 138 USD / day), and 90 days are at a minimum level (180 SEK = 25 USD). Out of the 480 days, 90 are reserved to each parent (used to be 60 before 2016) and the non-pregnant parent (usually a father) gets extra 10 days at the birth.


>If I am looking for 3rd programmer in my 2 person small company I will not risk hiring a young woman

Men can get parental leave in European countries, so in this case your strategy is not working.


>>Men can get parental leave in European countries, so in this case your strategy is not working.

Depends on the country. In mine women get much more time and men usually take none or just a few weeks at most. I think that's the case in most countries.


I live in the USA and at my company (albeit a large one) both men and women get 6 months of paternity/maternity leave.

In Germany you'll get up to three years right-of-return.

The employer doesn't pay you a dime. First twelve months you get approx. 60% of your current income from the government (BTW the same coverage people get when unemployed). You can expand those twelve months into 24, halving the amount of what you're paid. You can also apply for additional support (e.g. there's a fixed amount per kid you'll get until it reaches adulthood).

From the feedback I've gotten so far 3 years sounds bizarre to most people outside of Germany. It certainly sounds like something guaranteeing a manifestation of gender-pay-gap. But it is in my experience actually the women here, who mostly want those 3 years. And equally bizarre: how shocked many are to hear how fast mothers return to their jobs in say France or Switzerland.


I like what they do in Switzerland. 3 years is ridiculous for a small business, you often don't know you can survive the next year let alone plan for 3. It's the problem with laws in EU in general though. They are very often made for reality of big businesses hiring hundreds of people. The laws and regulations often make sense there but present a huge obstacle for small players.

If you pay the person well then that person will go back to work for the extra money(though some people are not into making more and more money).

Germany’s total fertility rate is below all but one of its neighbours so whatever it’s doing it’s not making things easier for women who want to have children.

Germany 1.41

France 1.98

Luxembourg 1.78

Denmark 1.74

Netherlands 1.66

Switzerland 1.44

Austria 1.38

Poland 1.27


You can't infer from the birth rate that German women want to have kids but can't.

Birth rates drop as prosperity increases and people feel less need to have children (some rejecting children entirely), and Germany is one of the most prosperous countries in the world.


I doubt that number has much to do with leave benefits because from what I understand those benefits have only increased. I think it would be much more cultural and generational.

Not to nitpick: Fertility rate (FR) in Germany is at 1.50 (2016), up from 1.24 (1994).

Other than that you're right.

One thing I keep hearing that actually worked better in Eastern Germany were the government funded expenses to make sure, women stayed financially independent from the father (and family), if need be (as indicated by the fact that Eastern German women that experienced the GDR are usually immune to today's extreme forms of feminism).

One thing in particular was that in the GDR day-nursery coverage was at 80%, in cities at 100% and they were completely free (except for the food). FR was higher than in Western Germany during the whole time GDR existed.

Note: This is not an endorsement of high government spending or communism. The US trumps all of Europe with their FR while having assumably a far looser social security net [1]. In GDR there also wasn't much choice for where to put your kids and the methods of caring for them were certainly blind to trends like "montessori" etc.

I guess, much of FR is due to economic predictability and less to the height of income you predict.

[1] For now, since US FR is declining, against the trend in Europe. Also of interest: How much of that rate (US or EU) is inflated by migrants?


Here in Romania 10 years ago you had the option to get up to 2 years of paternity (only 1 parent).

Men do now have 2 months of parental leave, if they do not use that they lose it. This is per a new EU law from last year.

EU bloke here (well, for now, pending Brexit...) - do you have any more info on this? I think last time I took paternity leave it was only 2 weeks on full pay, and a further 2 weeks on half pay. Is the 2 months you mention on full pay?

The directive is quite new, they first reached an agreement in janurary so it is not implemented yet. https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2019...

No it’s still decided on a country level, sounds like the German law.

I mean one of the parents not both, in my case (I am a man in Romania) my wife could not qualify at that time since she was at university/college and I benefited by the parental leave.

The law does not discriminate by the parent gender, so if the man decides to stay at home with the child is fine.


> Men can get parental leave in European countries

Including in the part of “Europe” south of Canada and north of Mexico; federally, it's up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave under FMLA, but some states have more and/or paid leave.


Why is this a gender issue? Both the Gates Foundation program and the Canada law are gender-neutral.

Since this is parental leave we're discussing, would you make the same judgements when considering hiring a young man and only hire contractors that don't get the protection of labour laws?

If you're looking for a 3rd programmer, you're looking for somebody who can commit to the short term future of the company with - if you're wise - an explicit guarantee of long term rewards.

Excluding half the population from that search will absolutely ensure that you don't get unlucky hiring a man who, develop schizophrenia (symptoms occur typically in younger males), runs off with your IP, decides he doesn't want to stick the long hours, his wife/girlfriend has a child and he wants a more stable position, can't stand your attitude, or all the other reasons that make people, male and female leave small companies run by people who make bad decisions. In the grand scheme of things that can go horribly wrong for startup companies, female pregnancy is actually the least of your worries.


While I can relate to your logic, I wonder: Since men are increasingly considering taking maternity leave as well, wouldn't it be a good alternative to focus on people older than say 40? What would keep you from hiring them?

Yeah it makes sense. My friend is doing it, hiring mainly 50+ yrs old women (in his profession there are way more job seeking women than men in the first place). It works great for him as he gets great work place atmosphere and not that much usual office politics.

people older than say 40? What would keep you from hiring them?

They are expensive :)


Is it really that?

I've come to think that it's rather the expectation that they are expensive. It is expected by employers as well as the old employees themselves, so if they would demand a lower than expected wage it would come across as fishy (did he serve time? an underachiever?).

Another thing might be that with experience comes less naiveness. As you become more resilient against corporate BS you become equally unformable (as in "Thanks, but no 'chakka' for me please").


Have you hired many 40+ year olds who are both good and cheap?

Why would you expect someone good to be cheap as well?

Not trying to be a dick, but for info, male 'baby leave' is called "paternity leave"

no offense taken, I'll claim the always forgivable "not-a-native -peaker" ;-)

Isn't SV culture encourages to not stay more then 2 years in one place and always keep an eye for an opportunity, how do you screen for people that are a "risk" of leaving not at home to take care of a child but at a new company to get a salary bump and work on something new and shiny?

I have a small business (15) and a lot of my employees are young women in Germany, so I think I understand the situation from different perspectives (young father). You just try to work with it, of course the situation for me would be easier in the US, but since all my competitors have the same problem and my customers have the same problem it is not a competitive problem. It is actually a problem for a company in a certain size, so you try to stay out of this size or grow out of it pretty fast. But st the end, it’s a value discussion, my business partner took parental and I’m fine with that , it doesn’t make it easier but it’s definitely better for the kids and I don’t value my personal financial success higher than the chances for these kids.

In a small company the buck always ends with the owner. If the company fails if someone leaves then that is either a failure of the owners ability to manage different aspect of the work or poorly run company.

An employee can at any time get a medical condition that puts them out of action with month long recovery time. A car crash, a bike accident, or any other problem that results in surgery. Maybe they get serious sick. Its quite rare that people are perfect healthy and remains so for decades, so it doesn't make any sense to risk operating a company on that condition.


Most leave laws don't apply to a company as small as three people. So this is just a hypothetical situation that is so absurd that it would never happen.

> If I am looking for 3rd programmer in my 2 person small company I will not risk hiring a young woman as getting a new employee to the stage where they contribute value is a huge cost.

IANAL but my understanding is this is very illegal in the US. Personally I think this is also terrible reasoning; there are many un-gendered life events that people will go on leave for.


> If I am looking for 3rd programmer in my 2 person small company I will not risk hiring a young woman as getting a new employee to the stage where they contribute value is a huge cost.

If you’re involved in hiring decisions in pretty much any western country you’ve just opened yourself to potential lawsuits.


If your business cannot handle possible parental leave then it is not really profitable in the first place. This 'cost' is not different from any other (taxes, transport costs, rent, etc.).

I had a company with roughly 10 engineers give or take over its lifetime. The two younger women never left. The men, younger and older, left at various times, one after 4 months, and one with 4 hours’ notice.

>I will not risk hiring a young woman

Not everyone wants or will have children.


[flagged]


An equally effective way to remove that incentive is to break your business in half when you decide to avail yourself of it.

It is unfortunate that we have, as a collection of societies, largely forgotten that the fictitious entity that is your company exists at and only at the sufferance of the society that decides it's a good idea to let it exist--and that we-the-society can demand that you play ball with the society that grants you your charter.


I am playing ball. I am working 10-12 hours a day. I don't take any benefits when I am sick. I am paying huge amount in taxes while almost not using very little infrastructure my country provides. It's of great benefit for people of my country to have me doing business here and yet the laws are such that my choices are either to be sexist when hiring, sacrifice my family well-being or not hire at all. I am currently doing the 3rd options because "the society demands". They get less in taxes and someone misses on a really good job. If I need anything I just hire contractors, usually living abroad so I don't have to deal with the nonsense. Great deal the demanding society got, truly.

Maybe just pack it in if it's not succeeding that you can't accept maternity leave? How long have you been doing this?

It's much easier to destroy than to create.

"Many that live, deserve death. Some that die, deserve life. Can you give that to them?"


>If you want me to not discriminate then please make laws which remove incentives to do so.

I guess the question for small business owners to help answer: what laws would make this work? Gender-neutral parental leave seems to be the best (least-worst?) option that governments have been able to implement so far.


State sponsored basic income like support for pregnant women and more support for parents. Tying benefits to your job and salary results in discrimination of women when hiring, women postponing motherhood and employers eating the risk of women looking for a job just to get pregnant and get benefits.

> If I am looking for 3rd programmer in my 2 person small company I will not risk hiring a young woman

You've just created far more financial risk for your company by doing this.

It's flat out illegal, and if you're caught doing this the punishment will probably bankrupt your company.

Further, it's disgusting and any small business owner that does this deserves to have their business destroyed.


You, who do not have to bear the cost of the policy, should be less harsh with the people who do. For example, we might make a law saying mothers shouldn't leave their children alone at home. Then we could say "You horrible mother, you left your kids alone, you're going to jail". But we are not the ones who have to spend our whole day watching the kids, trapped and exhausted. We should recognize the higher contribution we're asking from the mothers by saying "Unfortunately, for the sake of the children, we have this penalty for having left them alone. We understand that one can be in a rush, so next time we encourage you to team up with other mothers to watch each other's children."

For one thing, the harsh reactions keep the people you're regulating from even being able to let you know how hard it is on them.


> You, who do not have to bear the cost of the policy, should be less harsh with the people who do

You should be less quick to make assumptions.

I am the owner of a small business with a handful of employees. I am the that bears the cost of such policies.


Your cognitive dissonance must be impressive. You have recently wrote:

>She is openly racist and sexist so good riddance

> I think it's very reasonable to be against Islam because of its stance on gay rights, women rights

And here you are being sexist and ignoring the right of women to not be discriminated against because of their gender.

How do you reconcile these positions inside your own head?


There is a difference between saying things like women are worse employees or don't deserve same rights as men and being put in position to choose between being sexist when hiring and putting someone's else children above well-being of your family. I hope you can understand the difference.

I'm sure the typical person you'd say "good riddance" about also is doing the best for their family. Is it correct for people to say "good riddance" about your opinion?

And being sexist when hiring is saying they're a worse employee and don't deserve the same rights.


Beginning to think your business doesn't deserve to exist.

Talk the talk, just don't walk the walk.

I understand.


Maternity/Paternity leave is the norm all over Europe and it works. The USA is not a special case, it would take a law to require it though because businesses are never going to add things like maternity leave with it being mandated by the government.

Your admission of sexism leads me to believe that your family consists of male children. If you had a daughter perhaps you would realise that "not giving a job to a young woman because she may decide to get pregnant" is pretty much the worst reason to refuse someone employment, regardless of the law, you are happy to discriminate against a person just because of their genitalia. That's a sad state of affairs for you, your company and your family.

bluecalm 10 days ago [flagged]

>>Maternity/Paternity leave is the norm all over Europe and it works.

It doesn't really work that well. Young women face blatant discrimination in hiring and small employers and sadly it's for good reasons as here a lot of women go on medical 2months into pregnancy and then take the full leave.

>>. If you had a daughter perhaps you would realise that "not giving a job to a young woman because she may decide to get pregnant" is pretty much the worst reason to refuse someone employment, regardless of the law, you are happy to discriminate against a person just because of their genitalia. That's a sad state of affairs for you, your company and your family.

I hear your moral outrage but I put well-being of my family first. I prefer to be sexists if my children don't need to worry about food and good school than being gender neutral and worrying about how I am going to pay for a good school or for the treatment if they get sick.


You're so close to coming to the grand realization of why parental leave and such works in European countries.

It's because they have a much stronger safety net. If your children get sick or if they need to go to college, it is significantly cheaper and less stressful.

It's a shame that your thoughts seem to be mirred in sexism though since you fear women having kids and ruining your business by taking time off.


Yet you call out others for sexist behaviour and then behave that way yourself.
bluecalm 10 days ago [flagged]

That's the problem. The laws are set in a way that I am either sexist or put my children well being below someone's else. The incentives are there to be sexists maybe let's think how to set them right.

You are wondering how you put your children through a private (paid for) school, whilst the employee might be wondering about feeding and accomodating theirs. Your children's well being is at a much higher level than those of your employees I am sure.

How do you propose to make it right? You already flout the existing laws, it's not like you would voluntarily enact something. So your proposition is to what? Get rid of maternity/paternity leave laws entirely? Make it fair by not letting anyone have parental leave?


We could always make leave mandatory for both parents.

> Surprisingly few people are actually trying to answer this question on this thread. The answer is straightforward: you either structure your organization so that there are enough overlapping responsibilities to account for parental leaves (e.g. good business practice of not making a fragile organization), or you hire a temporary employee explicitly on a 1 year "parental leave" contract.

Obviously. But doing this imposes costs on the organization. Those costs scale (possibly non-linearly) with length of leave. The question we have to ask is, what is the amount of time off that balances the interests of the company, the economy, and the parents optimally? The Gates foundation is saying 1 year does not strike a good balance for them, because the organizational costs are simply too high. That's what being said here.


This is how it's done w/o having the company in shambles after 2 employees take their parental leave. Plan in advance, rely on a steady flow of workforce willing to work only for a year. I can't see any other options a healthy child-mother relation could develop than this. Of course, todays corporate design needs to be overhauled structurally for this to work, but we have to decide which benefits more for our society.

"The labour market is quite good," [for employers, terrible for employees] "and there is no shortage of qualified individuals for almost all positions (CFO, specialists included)."

I guess...


Experience tells me this is also a really good way to test how essential your essential employees really are. If you're fundamentally redundant or your job can be replaced by a 1-year temp people will take note.

It provides opportunties for others to grow as well. Getting a temp role as cfo can open doors.

We hire interims or share responsibilities between other members of the team. It happens all the time and we rarely find an issue with this.

If any company is run in such a way that bus-factor means the company can't thrive with one person gone you're simply doing it wrong.


It's not that they can't thrive in a pinch and more "what do you do when it's normal". Let's also remember that the person can have multiple kids in a row. A long time ago I worked at a company where the VP of a department ended up with 3 kids back to back. By the time they came back it was basically a different company and no one remembered them. The company couldn't tell ahead of time if this was going to keep going or not, so they had a new permanent VP, and no real room for an extra one. They basically split up the department in 2 for no real reason since they had to give the person a similar job back. It was really weird.

Obviously those are extreme case. Companies are dealing with it all the time now, and it's pretty normal. They make it work.

But there's no real argument that it leads to some really awkward situations sometimes.


There‘s this nice saying: „People who want to, find ways. People who don‘t want to, find reasons.

People here in Germany are on parental leave all the time. I was on parental leave two months as CTO. My cofounder was away almost a year as CRO. You just do what’s obvious: share responsibility, temporarily hire people and/or restructure and make it work. Is it annoying? Sure. Would I want it any other way? Hell, no.

I think it makes all the difference if kids are seen as a common investment into the future economy or as a personal luxury.


> I was on parental leave two months as CTO. My cofounder was away almost a year as CRO

2 months is nothing. The later example is abit closer. In some of my examples above, we're talking nearly 3 years. That's a whole different level.


This seems like the most obvious dodge. I know plenty of companies, especially small ones, where any person in the company is pretty much the bus factor. When they take vacation the company shuts its doors for a few weeks.

This is obviously true for startups and small restaurants, especially ones without gobs of VC funding.

Is the solution just to exclude companies that cannot get by without doing this? In other words, make sure certain kinds of startups and small businesses are not possible?


If the company is utterly reliant on a single person, that person is either an equity owner, or should be, and the owner is taking advantage of them.

If you own in part the business, then imho you take as much or little parental leave as you want/can afford.


The reason I used CFO and specialist mechanic is that often companies are utterly reliant not on a single person, but a single person's work or expertise. It may be no problem at all to hire a replacement expert, just like it is easy to hire a new accountant if your accountant dies from a heart attack.

But you still hire a new accountant, and in this case, with parental leave, hiring someone to do the leaver's job leads to problems because unlike the dead accountant, they come back! This is the issue, that normally you fulfill a specialist role with another hire.


> not on a single person, but a single person's work or expertise

But this is true for literally everyone in the company, including the owner. It's a rare business that couldn't change ownership and still thrive under the right circumstances. In fact, there's a whole day of the week that has a nickname because people do this so often ("M&A Monday")

Your "someone with equivalent skills" condition is equivalent to the "under the right circumstances" condition.

So, I'm not sure I see how this is a response to:

> If the company is utterly reliant on a single person, that person is either an equity owner, or should be, and the owner is taking advantage of them.


you know there is an entire industry of recruitment agencies that specialise in interim directors?

Thats a bit of a strong statement, but I understand your leaning. A couple things:

* The Employment Insurance office pays for it. Yes, the person is going to be on leave, but you're not sitting there paying their salary. Hire a contractor while they're gone?

* If they're irreplaceable, yes you're SOL, but they get to make their own choices just as you did about basing your business's viability on one person that planned and had a kid.


Thanks. I suppose "use temps/contractors" is probably the answer for most businesses, then, and to me feels like a true answer to the question posed.

If you're fine with using temps/contractors then you are also fine with them not showing up one morning as well. Most temps are looking for full-time employment. And most contractors are after bigger contracts.

Canada can do it because Canada is not the US. In the US, we have too much emphasis on the individual. In other societies, there is more emphasis on the collective. This opinion may not be entirely accurate, but it's worth stating this basic difference.

As a Canadian who lives in the US, the two countries aren’t that different.

Do you think Canada is more collectivist than individualist?

Consider this.

Idealized US is "freedom, liberty, and pursuit of happiness."

Idealized Canada is "peace, order, and good government." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace,_order,_and_good_governm...)

I'm neither Canadian nor American, but I have been a permanent resident of Canada, and now live in US. The day-to-day differences are relatively minor in comparable geographic regions, but mainstream American and Canadian politics and political philosophy is fairly different.


OK, I've considered that.

It's not really saying anything to me that would make me think that the people in Canada on average value the collective over the individual in terms of how they personally behave and more importantly how they tell others to behave.

A phrase we often hear a lot is 'It's a free country'. Sometimes we say it as a justification that 'this is my preference / choice and regardless of what you think I do believe I have some justification in making it' and sometimes others use it to come to our defense to tell someone to back off and just let us be. That's individualism.

In contrast I've had thousands of conversations with Japanese people where they use the opposite kind of justification 'because I'm Japanese I must behave this way because this is how Japanese people behave' or someone instructing you to act/not act in a certain way because your behavior is expected to (roughly) line up with cultural norms and there is constant and heavy emphasis on this.

I can appreciate Canadian politics being different to that of the US. Indeed NZ and Australian politics differ both from each other and from that of Canada and the US. But I think we would all sooner blurt out 'it's a free country' than admonish ourselves for not behaving how everyone else behaves. That is to say there are some core philosophies that are held by all of us and then there are a bunch that differ.


I don't think anybody would disagree that Canada, and really all Western countries, are more on the individualist side of of the global spectrum - that's our shared Enlightenment culture at play. But OP was talking comparatively, US versus Canada. In that context, I think it's quite true that Canada (and, again, most other Western countries) are not quite as individualist as US. When you compare both versus Japan, yeah, it's a very minor difference.

Judging by the temperature of sibling HN comments and the degree of Canada-bashing from US-based individuals, it does indeed seem like there is a difference in degree of individualist mindset.

Sibling countries bashing each other is common the world over. Is the nature of the bashing such that it is making claims of some sort of collectivist nature? And to what degree does a claim made during some kind of rivalry make something accurate or true?

Australians often like to claim New Zealanders have sexual relations with sheep when they engage in good old fashioned country bashing. I would hazard a guess that stunningly few New Zealanders have ever fucked a sheep, though I would assume a handful have and what's more I'd assume the same to be true of Australia too. But it's clearly not like the claim has any sort of merit as it applies to the general population.

I don't have deep experience with Canada, so I would be interested to be pointed in the direction of anything that would indicate that collectivism was more prevalent in Canada than Individualism.

I have a hard time buying it. I'm from NZ and I've always felt we are much closer to Canada than the US. I've also lived in Australia for a couple of years. Aus and NZ are completely similar along certain dimensions and really different along other ones. But I would venture to say that they're both heavy into Individualism. As is the States and from what I have seen of Canada I assumed I would feel quite at home there.

Comparing my experience with Japan over the last 10 years, which is heavily collectivist, I just can't bring myself to the conclusion that personality wise and the types of things that come out of Canadians mouths about how one should conduct oneself in society is closer to that of the Japanese than it is to that of Americans.


Does the problem still exist if you start distinguishing between employees and more direct stakeholders?

If a "simple" employee is so important that the companies shuts down when they are away, then that employee should be awarded with a true stake in the company and some voting power, not just a salary. Then they can decide for themselves how to deal with such vacations. In that sense I think it is perfectly reasonable to make the kind of businesses or startups from your last paragraph impossible.


Recent research suggests otherwise, at least on average:

https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2019/01/pr...

>We find that the average premature death of a million-dollar-earning owner causes an 82% decline in firm profits.

Granted, this is a slightly different question regarding owner/managers.


Large companies have economies of scale and a back bench of qualified labor to step up when necessary.

Small companies frequently lack that - for instance, your team members might share responsibility, but are you sure areas such as payroll, legal or facilities are as generously staffed?

It's in large companies' interests to get such rules instituted across the board, as it raises the costs to enter the market for a potential disruptor.


> If any company is run in such a way that bus-factor means the company can't thrive with one person gone you're simply doing it wrong.

Hacker News - where everyone forgot what an actual startup is.

VC funded "startups" with millions in the bank should really be called something else entirely. Only in the past 20 years has that become the norm. Typically a startup is a self-funded enterprise with 1 or 2 key employees for the first few years.

During those actual startup phases you likely have a bus factor of 1 or you are likely not doing anything remotely interesting enough to warrant you starting a company. Once you get your VC funding and have 50 employees and a 1 year runway? You're not a startup any longer.


Hacker News - where everyone forgot what an actual startup is.

During those actual startup phases you likely have a bus factor of 1 or you are likely not doing anything remotely interesting

I’m sure you can appreciate why those two statements are not reconcilable. Stop gatekeeping.


> you're simply doing it wrong.

In Canada


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Can you actually point out to instances of having to work more in practice due to people taking parental leave?

Other countries tend to have much stronger labor protections so the end result, surprisingly, is often that you're not really doing more work especially if the company is prepared. I just went through an example myself where my relatively small team had a senior developer take parental leave for a few months and the expectation wasn't for us to pick up the slack.


Not leave -- and note that I'm not opposed to the leave policies -- but I worked at a place that involved travel. The parents always managed to get out of it. I ended up leaving because what would have been a reasonable amount of travel split 4 ways was an unreasonable amount split 1 way (me) with 3 parents who did virtually none of it.

Well your original post made no mention of this.

I know plenty of people with kids that have to travel for work. And they make it work.

FYI, retaliation over parental leave is a thing too. I have a friend who took 2 months parental leave. When he came back he was put on call for a year straight.


What other post? I think you're talking about someone else.

If the government is covering the leave and you're not hiring a replacement then why are the remaining workers getting "the same pay" for the extra work?

That's a horrific attitude, you cannot seriously think you have a successful business if this is what it takes to destabilize it. Try harder.

Yeah, if a company is claiming this is a too large of a hardship to implement all that tells me is that they are running their business poorly.

Canada does it because there aren't very many high-performing companies in Canada. I'm saying this as an expat. Most of the top performing Canadians move down to the States.

The companies that exist in Canada are companies like banks, Rogers, Bell, etc, where you won't find too many high performers. I have a friend who has taken 2 1-year leaves, and it didn't impact her job because her job as an account manager isn't particularly hard to take over.

A high-performing company like the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation can't perform at the level that they want if their employees are taking 1 year leaves, and that's just a fact of life. It's the same as Netflix. They have a 1 year policy, but I doubt any engineer will take the full year, but kudos to them if they do.


A few things that need clarifying to make a fair comparison:

In Canada, the government pays the benefits, and they are capped at $60,000 per year (and you only get up to 75% of that at the best case if you take a lower amount of time than 12 months). Additionally, it's 12 months split between the mother and the father, not 12 months each. On top of that, you are taxed on the income from those benefits, at your marginal tax rate. As far as companies go, many will hire and train a replacement if they anticipate a 1 year leave, and, particularly in the private sector, will often times restructure or abolish a position when it's convenient. The labour laws on this are well defined but not often upheld and there is a lot of room for maneuvering here and only government positions really respect this to the T.


> In Canada, the government pays the benefits

Taxpayer, you mean taxpayer


First, as sibling comment notes, this is actually quite mild in terms of business continuity planning because unlike actual "hit-by-a-bus" issues, you have many months of lead time to prepare for it. Second, your choice is not "one year of parental leave" or "perfectly performance from the person with a baby at home". Having a young child is a huge life event, parental leave or not. So, you can eliminate the most competent cross-section of the employable demographic (age for having children is usually past the point when someone is junior to the point of being useless, but before cognitive decline becomes an issue). It's a hard problem, so you have companies struggling with it like the Gates foundation, here.

Since Canada is doing fine, perhaps instead of asking rhetorical questions you should read some Canadian HR journals?


"I suspect that firms have learned to deal with it, but by doing things like passively selecting against women and younger people for critical roles. Is that how they manage? Is that an improvement?"

While that probably happens, in Canada this is parental leave that either parent can take advantage of. I would imagine this decreases the amount of gender discrimination.

It also worked out really well for me. As a father I was able to take several months off after the birth of our twins to help care for them. My wife had quit her job earlier due to a toxic workplace and medical issues.


My employer (in the US), and many others, have begun offering equal parental leave (including for adoption) for exactly this reason. It helps limit the initiative for discrimination by treating people of all genders and sexualities as (more) equal. I think we get 22 weeks/year, which is certainly better than average.

The comparison is a bit flawed here. The Canadian system only pays a percentage of your normal wage, is subject to a wage cap, and the 12 months leave is shared by both parents.

So it’s not like every situation will have a parent missing for a full year.


>If you have say, a CFO or a specialist mechanic (that you only need 1 of, but definitely need) and they take a year off, what do you do? Just go without a CFO/mechanic for the year? Or do you start the hiring search, bring in another person as a temp CFO for a year?

What do you do if your single point gets sick or quits?

As a business you need a backup (plan).


Absolutely. If they quit, of course you go through the long candidate search process and hire a replacement.

If they get sick, many companies are on a timer. Specialist work backs up, projects get delayed, extensions are filed, and so on. If a sickness was expected to last a month or a year, I would expect non-trivial problems to arise.


If you absolutely need one for the business to function you need more than one person knowing how to do the job. Maybe not as good as the first guy but beeing so dependant on one person can put a company out of business.

I thought that was basic knowledge espcially in tech.


This is simply not a norm in American business. Most companies have numerous team members that have no redundancy or fail-over. For instance: a mid-sized startup hires its first GC --- it is certainly not a norm for that company to hire two lawyers in case one needs to take leave, and also not the case that the rest of the team can simply pick up the slack.

Outsource it to a contractor / lawyers office or whatever you did before?

As in my other response, you have months to prepare a solution.


I'm not getting involved with the broader debate, I'm just saying that the idea that you're meant to have redundancy for all your staff is not a norm.

A company that needs a GC as an employee is no longer a startup

In tech, you do not commonly hire people in pairs. If you need a DBA you hire one. If he quits or dies you hire another one. If he leaves for a year, what do you do?

>he quits or dies you hire another one.

And in the weeks/months until you found one ?

It's not like babies appear over night, you have months to prepare.


As has been quite clearly stated elsewhere, hiring a dba who wants a gig for 6-12 months rather than an indefinite gig is either much harder or much more expensive than hiring a dba on the indefinite plan. Same reason consultants get paid a lot more; the person you hire knows they're going to be job searching shortly.

There's often specialist work than can be delayed or performed more slowly by other team members. I'm not sure how that's relevant.


At some point (less than 52 weeks) if a $CxO gets sick, then you start investing in an alternative solution.

I'm all for parental leave, but the parent account poses a great question - how do you financially account for it? Vacation leave is easy - you allocate days and everyone gets them.


Even with governments paying for parental leave up to the cap, and often with Canadian companies in the talent war offering to "top-up" to X% (e.g. 80% of normal pay), it means that on average Canadian companies may not be as financially competitive compared to international companies operating in labour markets that do not need to offer as much parental leave (e.g. USA).

It's a choice that Canadians (and other countries) have made based on the value Canada places on work-life balance that are simply different from other countries around the world that don't have similar policies. There's definitely a trade-off (societal value vs. economic firm competitiveness).


I'm in canada and there is an actual problem. I know of a lawfirm that suffered through a new hire. She had one kid, took the leave and then was pregnant with another within months of returning. The nasty part was that she made is known she intended on leaving the firm after the second kid. She did then leave. The firm effectively paid her for two years only to have her then walk out the door.

Women should get the time. I have no issue with them, and men too, taking the time. But given modern family planning, pregnancies are most often not a surprise. I don't like seeing an employee who plans and executes a multi-year campaign to extract as much money as possible from a program with the goal of then walking away once the tap runs dry.

There is no answer. Employers cannot interfere with family matters. Patents get the legally mandated leave. And they are free then to walk away. It only gets horrible when people start to leverage the program beyond the original purpose.


Parental leave in Canada is paid by Employment Insurance not the employer.

True, but Canadian firms also compete with one another for talent, and many top firms (presumably more applicable to a whiteshoe law firm) offer "top up" the employe's parental leave salary to X% -- the best I've seen is 80%, but perhaps competing for top talent employers could offer up to 100%.

In this instance, both the government and the employers are shouldering that cost.


Exactly. Many law firms in Canada ensure paternity leave pays out at 100% of salary. Lawyers, like a great many other professions, also come with additional costs. Her dues, her training, insurance, her benefits package, all were paid. Not to mention, when she returns, it is at salary similar to what she would have expected had she stayed. So now they have a new attorney with no experience outside of law school, being paid the equivalent of one with 2+ year experience. All these costs add up.

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Wow, calling a pregnant woman "leech-like" is one of the most misogynistic things I've ever read on HN.

I have no issues with maternity leave at all and I support it, with some exceptions obviously. I do have issues with people trying to game the system as this particular woman was.

They didn't call her "leech-like", they called her behavior "leech-like".. and it was.

Should pregnant women be exempt from any type of judgement regardless of their behavior?


Or perhaps implementing a Canadian/European style parental leave program paid by taxes would mean this woman wouldn't have to act like this to get some support before/after having a child.

Or maybe people should wait until they're in a position where they don't have to resort to such behavior in order to support their offspring.

Your questions are all valid but please remember Canada is a real country and business do exist with this law. It's not an hypothetical scenario. Same exists in other European countries.

What do you want out of life is a great question, I prefer the more social view of the world Canada has, even if I am paid less than in the individualist culture of US.


The birth rate is dropping to at/below replacement across most of the world. Take Iran, for example. It has a lower birth rate than Europe. Not what you'd expect, but it happens to every nation that develops a modern economy. At a certain point, it makes more sense for young parents to concentrate their resources on one or two children, rather than hedge their bets against disease and famine and war by having many children - and more importantly, having a child at all is sufficiently expensive and difficult that many adults just opt out of it.

I can only speak from personal observations as a Canadian; note that I am using female workers/maternity examples and pronouns to try to answer the specific question posed, especially since historically my observed experience has been predominantly with maternity leaves, but also note that in Canada men can increasingly take paternity leave instead/in addition, which I 101% support and further believe will further make this less of a concern/issue.

My wife is a store manager for a major international hardware store chain, and much of her senior leadership team up and down (assistant store managers working for her, as well as her district manager she reports to) are female as well, so in their neck of the woods at least there's no passive selection. Due to nature of pregnancy, maternity leave is something that lends itself to some heads-up, so as far as I have observed the company handles it through careful, productive and communicative planning. This may include contracted positions, but also internal temporary/trial opportunities - role only being available for a period of time is not necessarily a bad thing, if you know and plan for it. Additionally, while people will fall onto a curve and experience counts (so we're not all fully replaceable blocks or cogs), nevertheless you can build an organization that has documented procedures, overlap, and shared collaborative knowledge.

I absolutely have seen people who are "irreplaceable" (and have occasionally occupied such a position), but it's all too frequently just a gap, that is addressable if you're forced to address it and need to do so ahead of time.

Similarly in my line of work, both the functional and technical experts as well as middle managers or senior leadership, happen to have a majority of female team members, and while as IT/BT projectized organization we are less proceduralized than my wife's organization, again - you see it coming, and you prepare for it.

Bottom line - I really think the combination of seeing it coming and having to deal with it, makes it far less of an issue than it might seem from the other side :-/


I have never seen an irreplaceable employee at any level, from the c-suite on down. I've seen lots who think they are.

I think it may get philosophical/semantic very quickly, but let me put it this way: I have worked on projects, even with 50+ team member size, where I can identify a single person whose removal would cause us to miss KPI/SLAs. Thus, in practical ways, they are at least temporarily [for given value of "temporary", which may be days or years] "practically irreplaceable" and their absence hurts.

They may not be "strictly/formally irreplaceable", but it would take 5 people 5 times as long to do certain aspects of their job poorly, and we'd blow our targets.

Note that this was not usually due to specific skillset as such (which theoretically, for a price, you may be able to find on the market), but usually their personal, deep, historic knowledge of the specific project, client, requirements, and system. Things that are currently a 30 second question to this person, many many times a day, might become hours or days of reverse engineering either code, or requirements, or both, only to still not have complete answer, for each instance. Multiply by factor of 10-20 occurrences daily, and force multiply during active IRs.

Typically, both this person and project recognize this SPOF but there's some reason why it takes a long time to remedy. (Occasionally though, but rarely, this is instead a particular type of contractor/consultant who believes withholding information is a job security method; depending on the market, this is a short gain as word spreads fast once project has finally routed around the problem)


That’s what you have managers for. The real question is why is the person in charge still employed if a critical business process depends on a single person.

I worked for a place where the CFO was diagnosed with cancer and was out for nearly 6 months. You know what happened? The Comptroller was appointed interim CFO and the CFO resumed his duties on his return.

All of these what ifs reflect a profound missing of the point. Instead of babies, think about injuries or extended jury duty or whatever. Any institution, whether a corporation, government agency or school, needs to be able to function independent of the individual employees.

If the magic mechanic or money lady is that critical, you already have a much more serious internal controls problem.


There's also something unsettling about "here's how [countries where the native birth rate is pretty much 0 or 1 babies] do parental leave!" feels a bit like... the women already did half the corporation's work for them.

There's the rub, can you (at a population level) have a birth rate at or above replacement if both parents are expected to find employment outside of the home? I don't think that's realistic.


> There's the rub, can you (at a population level) have a birth rate at or above replacement if both parents are expected to find employment outside of the home? I don't think that's realistic.

That's far more of a child care issue than a parental leave issue. If both parents take a year of leave each for three children that's not even close to a tenth of their working life.

And we are expecting far too many hours to be worked per household. But there's no reason a reduction in working hours has to imply a stay at home parent. What if both parents worked 3 days a week, or 2 days a week?


> That's far more of a child care issue than a parental leave issue. If both parents take a year of leave each for three children that's not even close to a tenth of their working life.

That's part of my point. If you need to use childcare services, then the cost of having children rises linearly with the number of children. If one parent stays home, then the costs grow logarithmically (I've heard anecdotally that after 4 kids, having more doesn't really require much additional effort because the older ones can be recruited to help with the younger ones).

But aside from cost, there's also the question of emotional investment. I suspect that couples aren't generally going to want to have more than one or two kids if they aren't going to have enough time to personally invest in each kid.

> And we are expecting far too many hours to be worked per household. But there's no reason a reduction in working hours has to imply a stay at home parent. What if both parents worked 3 days a week, or 2 days a week?

That's a fair point, and I think it's worth looking at how that could be made a reality.

However, shorter work weeks imply that each hour of work has the same marginal utility for the worker. I don't have any citations at the moment, but I've heard that people who work more hours tend to be paid disproportionately more. That is, it may make more financial sense for a family if one parent works 40-50 hours than if both work 20-25 hours.


> I've heard anecdotally that after 4 kids, having more doesn't really require much additional effort because the older ones can be recruited to help with the younger ones

I've heard anecdotally, that after four (sometimes two or three, depending on who is describing it) kids having more doesn't require additional effort because there's a limit to available effort, and you're just into how it is divided at that point, effectively transitioning from K to r strategy.


Yes, but is a birth rate above replacement a good thing or a bad thing?

If it's determined to be a socially good thing, then society should pay for it, rather than try to badger women out of the workplace to reduce their options and make them parents.


> Yes, but is a birth rate above replacement a good thing or a bad thing?

Well, a birthrate below replacement can have a number of negative consequences, especially in a society like ours with the way we've setup social security.

> If it's determined to be a socially good thing, then society should pay for it, rather than try to badger women out of the workplace to reduce their options and make them parents.

For what it's worth, it was my father that was the stay-at-home parent for my childhood. Certainly I wouldn't want to force women to stay at home, but I've known a number who would at least like the option.

How we pay for it is a valid question, but aside from the purely monetary aspect, there's question of emotional investment. Parents are generally only going to have as many kids as they feel they (collectively) have enough time for.


Not sure if the question is meant seriously. There is no shortage of countries in the developing world having all kinds of parental leave, and plenty of information how that is structured.

> bring in another person as a temp CFO for a year?

Yes, that's bascially how things are done. Either a temp hire or, more commonly for specialised roles perhaps, a consultant. There's a whole job market for doing these one year stints.

Of course, you can't force people into parental leave. Some doesn't take any at all. Some take as much as they can. It may very well be the case that specialists and business leaders take less time off than others, but it's not a general trend, especially not with the working class which is perhaps the opposite of what one might expect.

> Is the person entitled to their old job back?

Generally yes, but these things are hard to enforce.

> Do you fire the new person or the old one?

Not really since replacements are hired for a specific time period.

> if someone is definitely necessary in the near-day-to-day?

Then you have a problem but usually you know about it half a year before it's too late.

> things like passively selecting against women and younger people for critical roles. Is that how they manage?

There are plenty of data available on this. Comparing data from different countries is problematic, but countries with more social insurance tend to also have more women in leading positions. This is probably due to confounding effects of course but should be indicative that if the above effect exists it is comparably small.

> the women already did half the corporation's work for them.

I didn't quite understand this part.


> here's how [countries where the native birth rate is pretty much 0 or 1 babies]

Most of the West is below 2 and the world is now at 2.5 average. And one of the main factors helping reduce it is .. the availability of employment outside of parenting.

It's not unusual to employ people on 1-year fixed contracts as maternity cover.


Those who have studied economics will not be surprised at how Canadian companies do this. The law effectively makes it illegal for all Canadian companies to operate in Canada if they can not afford this 52 week leave. Pretty much like how minimum wage makes it illegal for low productivity individuals to work or be employed.

There is a definite cost to this which is paid for by the other employees,share-holders and economy in general. It also makes age an issue in hiring decisions and employers would be less willing to hire potential new parents. Secondly, people figure out clever ways to avoid this through contractual employees, outsourcing and other methods.

Without such law Canadian society would have been more rich, more innovative and ensured welfare of all in the society.


First, on the legal side: the firm can leave the position open, or hire a full or temporary person for it, but when the parent returns they get their old job back (or an equivalent one). Also it's not exactly 52 weeks parental leave, it's 13 weeks medical leave (for the mother expressly) and 39 weeks for either parent, to be split as desired. And that's just the paid component (which is paid by the unemployment insurance system). You're also able to take unpaid leave as the other parent. Same difference to the employer, of course. They're not on the hook for the direct cost.

What generally happens is the firm hires a person on a one year term, and then at the end of the year the original person comes back and the replacement person is either kept on (if they were good) or not (if they weren't). It's a decent way to hire new people, actually.

>>What if the person takes parental leave again after 1 month back? Do you accept that you've torpedoed some role? Do you try to slowly phase out this person's job description and offload their work onto their coworkers?

In Canada you can't take parental leave simply at any time, it's tied to the birth of the kid (wth leeway). It's very unusual to have a child 13 months after the previous one, and there are rules about how often you can take the paid unemployment insurance (tied to how much you've worked over the last year). But yes, you'd be entitled to leave from you job.

>>More succinctly, what if someone is definitely necessary in the near-day-to-day, and does not do work that is interchangeable with other employees?

A well-structured organization typically doesn't have very many of these people, because it's a ticking time bomb. That person will leave; they'll quit or get fired or get hit by a bus or get cancer or take a three week vacation and the business has to figure it out. And babies don't really sneak up on you that much - there's plenty of time to train someone, etc.

>>I suspect that firms have learned to deal with it, but by doing things like passively selecting against women and younger people for critical roles. Is that how they manage?

I've never seen any data that Canada has poorer gender equality or more age discrimination than the US.

Overall I think that the parental leave laws in Canada do make things marginally more difficult for businesses but significantly easier for new parents. That's a tradeoff I consider reasonable.


> I've never seen any data that Canada has poorer gender equality or more age discrimination than the US.

Gender wage gap is much worse in Ontario than California (26% vs. 11%).

These are the two economic powerhouses of the respective countries. Hard to compare the nations on the whole since they differ in many other ways (Canada is a significantly more urban nation, for example).


Basically what happens when the developer is hit by the bus. Don't we accommodate for this in regular business by creating redundancies? When you know someone is going on a parental leave you double down on that and add one more redundancy. For cases like the CFO, it's not unusual for someone reporting to the CFO temporarily taking over the CFO role (with/without the title).

(Honestly why is this any different from someone leaving an org or being generally unavailable for any reason? In fact, in this case it's much better since a baby doesn't pop-out just like that - it gives a nice few months to train a temp.)


Surprisingly not that much research on this topic on the American side, but here's one. [0]

Conclusion: there's a small negative impact on the hiring of women, but it's more than compensated by women being less likely to leave companies that provide them a longer maternity leave.

0: https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/nsarin/files/20170821_jobp...


From what I could find, Canada offers 52 weeks total for both parents. Whereas the Gates Foundation was offering 52 weeks per parent (about twice as good), and is now rolling that back to 6 months plus daycare. So that seems totally on par.

I couldn't find exact figures, but it looks like the Canadian policy pays up to 55% of earnings, and usually closer to 33%. I couldn't find how much the Gates foundation pays.


Canada pays the same benefits as unemployment insurance would for maternity leave.

How they manage in Canada is that they have many fewer successful knowledge-based businesses per capita, at every level of success.

Organizations have adjusted quite well here in Canada. For people entering the labour market or moving up the responsibility ladder a maternity leave contract has become an extremly common way for people to get their foot in the door while offering companies a simple exit at the end of the contract if the fit isn't right. Hiring new employees can be risky for companies here since terminating employment is often not simple, but parental leave creates a perfect opportunity to offer fixed term employment contracts to people you can measure against the leave employee's performance. Once the leave is up if the contract employee has worked out they are offered full time employment (or sometimes other parental leave contracts). The obvious loophole is to not hire full time employees and to just string people along on contract after contract, but there is an employment law (at least here in Ontario) that companies cannot use contracts for an employee again after 4 out of the last 5 years contract work. The relationship either has to be terminated for a time (I think 2 years), converted to full time employment, or shifted to a true business to business agreement where the employee incorporates.

> What if the person takes parental leave again after 1 month back?

Parental leave available to everyone is funded by employment insurance, so your available leave is partly tied to how much you have worked prior to going on leave. Employers are free to augment EI, but everyone qualifies for the basic leave and it's paid for by everyone paying into the EI pool. Each individual company and person is not left holding the bag. Like our health care, spreading the costs to everyone makes things more sustainable since not every person in the country goes on leave or gets sick at the same time.

https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-maternity-p...


My CEO is currently out on maternity. Other people are covering. It just kinda works.

Good questions. People wear lots of hats in startups, and cross-train to avoid bus factors. If someone has highly specialized skills, cannot pass on their skills, and cannot be replaced, they are irreplaceable and the company needs to take other steps to resolve that for its own sake.

Here's the question that answers all of your questions: What happens if that person quits?

And the answer is, the company either adapts, folds, or had plans in place to handle it. Either they were essential and irreplaceable or they weren't.


What happens if that person holds the company hostage and drags them in directions they don’t want to go?

>>Okay, so... how do they do it? They never answer the question.

If you have say, a CFO or a specialist mechanic (that you only need 1 of, but definitely need) and they take a year off, what do you do? Just go without a CFO/mechanic for the year? Or do you start the hiring search, bring in another person as a temp CFO for a year? What if you can't find a temp, so you hire someone?

Canadian companies will try to hire ahead of the parental leave for 1 year contracts, and stipulate ahead of time that the contract is exactly that - a short-term, time-boxed employment duration. Sometimes there is the option depending on performance and/or business outlooks that the person's contract can be extended or converted to a FTE (assuming they were only hired as a contractor, which may or may not be the case).

>Is the person entitled to their old job back? Do you fire the new person or the old one?

Yes, the person is entitled to their old job back by law.

>What if the person takes parental leave again after 1 month back? Do you accept that you've torpedoed some role? Do you try to slowly phase out this person's job description and offload their work onto their coworkers?

Usually there is a minimum time back, which I thought was 3 months back, but don't have the citation handy. Canadian companies (and I'm sure other non-Canadian companies that operate in countries with similar parental leave durations) will all handle the ripple effects in different ways. Some will offload to others in the team (probably in larger companies?), or simply hire for that role for a 9-12 month contract.

>More succinctly, what if someone is definitely necessary in the near-day-to-day, and does not do work that is interchangeable with other employees?

In this scenario, the company usually has 2-3 months to figure out a contingency plan. There is a disruptive effect, but it's not really any different than managing for the "bus/lottery factor".

>I suspect that firms have learned to deal with it, but by doing things like passively selecting against women and younger people for critical roles. Is that how they manage? Is that an improvement?

This is a legitimate question. I think this is one of the reasons why the wording is so careful about this being about parental leave, and not just maternal leave. I think this concern and potential bias runs through every company owner's head at some point, but thankfully these laws make it such that it would be discrimination if this point were used in the hiring process and I hope, at some level, acts as a deterrant or diminishes the frequency of this bias in the hiring process.


Every company should be "hit by a bus" resilient if it expects to last.

In our engineering consultancy, the whole last year was all about taking big losses in people:

1. CTO left the company, after marriage, and decided to run his own smaller scale consultancy/prototyping company. For him, it was certainly impossible to combine being a chief engineer, and being a first time father with a newborn at the same time. Even a promise of doubling his pay, over his already high compensation, was not enough to keep him.

He was the man who worked with the founder of the company for a really long time, beginning his career as a poor pipsqueak on an assembly line. He was an exemplary engineer and a team lead, despite him only having 2 years of engineering college.

A thing to learn from that is that you have to reduce intensity of work with seniority, not increase it. Family has no price tag. Trying to keep a successful 30 something Chinese guy in the company is a giant challenge, and the more money you throw at the guy, the more likely he will leave!

Even a promise of maximum 6 month of paid paternal leave, and reduced schedule after was not holding water as it was clear to everybody that the company can't function in its present form without everything spinning around C-levels.

What would've been the best option here is if we can genuinely guarantee a humane job schedule for somebody like him, and be able to back that with concrete actions. Our soon coming attempt at this is to give senior, lead, and C-level positions to people in late twenties, expect to rotate them frequently, and be ready that they may ask for a voluntary demotion when the time comes for them to get busy with family matters. We also plan to double down on our effort to move more decision making, and PM work to junior employers to offload senior engineers and C-levels.

2. Our best PM, and best engineer departed the company (was fired) for screwing up a project that had 8 digit revenue potential, and screwing it in the most unprofessional way possible. We could've tolerated failure if the screw-up he did was genuinely involuntary, but not when he kept the issue secret from the rest of the company for 3 months.

This however ended very, very well for him in the end. One gigantic multinational hired him just 2 weeks after we fired him, and he is super happy now...

Out of that, we learned that it is important to keep "high stakes game" away from individual employees. The guy was simply too afraid to reveal the issue to the rest of the company, because his bonus and his future career with us depended on that.

A big thing resulting from that is that we have "a talk" with every senior PM about handling such situation; C-levels now personally inspect high stakes projects to see that PMs do not hide "big issues," and not trying to quietly solve them by themselves. Lastly, we agreed to no longer give any bonuses to senior project staff, and instead gave them high flat rate salary. That is a complete anathema in China, and we had a very, very long talk in the company. I'm glad we went through with it. I can't be more happy with the change.

All measures above resulted in that our PMs no longer get too cocky and cavalier with each project, and no longer try to take as much projects upon themselves as they can physically. Projects now go much, much smoother, with each PM handling no more 2 or 3 projects at the time, and paying more attention to competing them "smoothly" over just completing them quickly.

3 Our COO, an another person who was with the founder for a really long time took her maternal leave. She is an expert in all thing about running logistics in manufacturing, an extremely valuable part of the company, one of our primary assets. Now, being taught by us losing our CTO, we manged her maternal leave much smoother. On the paper, she is given 1 year fully paid leave, and we took an obligation to keep her employed, even if it is the end of the world, after that.

Even prior to that, the company had a talk with her about how much workload is ok for her, if she wants to remain a COO, and what we can do to keep her workloads on humane level. She was very happy to be given a substantial amount of time to train juniors in her team to take upon more work. With that done, our manufacturing logistics now runs like a clockwork, and she was back to work 6 months after, taking a just a little bit lighter work schedule. Because she is now sure that nothing critical depends on her personally, she is more confident that having to run back home when something happens with baby will not impact her work as a COO.


You hire somebody full-time to fill the position. When the employee comes back from parental leave, either move the new employee or the returning employee into a new position.

People ask sometimes why, in capitalism, companies need to grow all the time. Why do company profits have to grow every year? Why can't they just stay at some same, low but healthy level, year after year? Well, this is one of those reasons. When you're constantly growing, then it's not an issue for somebody to come back from parental leave, because there are always new positions opening up. Maybe the person coming back will need to wait an additional week or two for the right position at the company to open up, maybe the person will need some training for a slightly different role. But there will be new spots.

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