Okta Inc.’s enhanced parental leave benefit for non-birthing parents is helping more employees who are fathers take time off to bond with their newborn or adopted children.

The software company is offering 18 weeks of parental leave topped up to 100 per cent of their full salary to non-birthing parents. Employees who use the benefit can take the time off within one year of their newborn child’s first birthday or date of adoption. They’re also allowed to split up the allotted time however they choose within that first year.

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Dan Kagan, Okta’s country manager and senior vice-president, who recently welcomed his fourth child, is about to take his first ever official parental leave, which will last three months.

“I’m 53 years old and I’ve been given a gift to try parenting one more time,” says Kagan. “The best way that I can give [my partner] the respect and the time that she needs is to unplug from what is an extremely hands-on and an extremely busy job.”

Angelina Shamborska, senior director of global benefits at Okta, says she wants Kagan’s story to inspire more non-birthing parents to take advantage of their parental leave. “Employees do tend to take a bigger chunk upfront and then maybe leave a couple of weeks here and there,” she says.

Between 2012 to 2017, seven in 10 fathers took leave of some type after the birth or adoption of their child, up from just 34 per cent recorded between 2001 and 2007, according to a report by Statistics Canada. However, the report showed, rather than take parental leave, many new fathers used their vacation or personal days, whether paid or unpaid, to step away from work and bond with their newborn or adopted children.

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Kagan is looking forward to the opportunity to bond with his child. “I’m hoping that what I’ve done in hiring the right way with the right folks, the business will be just as I left it,” he says. “I’d love [if on my return] it [is] even better than when I left it.”

A 2021 study by McKinsey & Co. found that 20 per cent of dads said a career setback was the main downside of taking advantage of their parental leave. However, respondents also said the benefits of taking the leave outweighed that concern. The study also found employees who received encouragement or felt supported by their workplace while on parental leave discovered a newfound appreciation for their co-workers.

As a leader, Kagan is doing so much more by way of signaling not just to his team but everyone else at Okta, that it’s OK to take time off to bond with your newly expanded family, says Shamborska.

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