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Within a month of each other in 2016, three employees at Boston software company Salsify, including cofounder Rob Gonzalez, became fathers. Gonzalez was torn: Should he take the full two months of paternity leave his company offers? If he didn’t, would he set a bad precedent, showing that he prioritized work over family? But if he did, would the rapidly growing company suffer?
As fathers take on a more equal role in parenting, millennial job candidates of both sexes are looking for companies that offer paid time off after the birth of a child, says Patty Houpt, director of the New England Employee Benefits Council. And as the competitive talent pool shrinks, a number of local employers have added or increased paid paternity leave to attract top talent, from large companies such as State Street, Fidelity, and Comcast to smaller ones like Salsify and Desktop Metal. Nationwide, 19 percent of employers offer paid paternal leave, according to one study, often covering adoptive fathers as well.
In the end, Gonzalez took off just 2½ weeks, but felt he still got plenty of early bonding time with his daughter. The other new dads didn’t rush back to work, though neither took the full eight weeks. “Each father did something different, which is exactly what I was hoping for,” says Gonzalez.
At Cengage, a Boston digital learning solutions company, new fathers used to get one week off. But in June, the firm began offering 12 weeks of paid parental leave. “Providing ample time to bond with a child and adapt to the realities of a newly expanded family is perhaps the greatest benefit that companies can provide their employees,” says Cengage chief executive Michael Hansen.
The new policy was a boon for Matt Vasallo, an application architect at the firm. His daughter was born in mid-August, and he’s taking the entire 12 weeks, as is his wife, Christine, who also works at the company. “You can never go back and get that time again with your baby and your family,” says Vasallo, 35.
The two divvy up duties. While his wife nurses, he’s “diaper dad” 15 times a day or more. “She smiles at me now,” he says of the baby. “And it’s all totally worthwhile.”