Parental Leave: How a Supportive Team Empowered a Colleague at SAP ANZ

SAP Digital Business Services Consultant Jochen Wabenhorst recently took parental leave when his son Oliver was born and found the benefits incredibly valuable for his family. They were able to build a strong bond and unique appreciation for one another.

Jochen used a week and half of parental leave as a secondary caregiver when Oliver was born in July 2018. And after reviewing SAP Australia’s policy and learning that SAP supports paternity leave for up to 17 weeks, Jochen and his wife Clare decided Jochen should take additional leave as a primary caregiver before Oliver turned one. Jochen and Clare shared child caring responsibilities more evenly as a result. Clare took maternity leave for Oliver’s first eight months while Jochen started his paternity leave when Clare finished her leave and returned to work.

Prior to Clare’s pregnancy, Jochen had no knowledge of SAP’s parental leave policy but quickly got up to speed upon learning the couple was expecting. Jochen said, “Once I understood the exact policy in terms of the secondary and primary caregiver options and the specifics of the allowance, I thought it was fantastic and felt like it was a no-brainer for me and my family.”

Jochen noted he is fortunate to have a supportive manager who is a father of two himself in addition to a team that values parental leave. In fact, two of the 17 people on Jochen’s team were becoming fathers and planning their leave at the same time as Jochen.

“She said it would be the best thing I would ever do, and she was right.”

As a Consultant, Jochen had some initial reservations about paternity leave and its impact on his team, so he reached out to his manager. Although his manager acknowledged the team might experience fewer billable days and revenue might be down, Jochen said, “He didn’t see it as an issue and as far as he was concerned it shouldn’t make any difference whether I was a father or mother—the opportunity and the support should be the same, and he was super supportive.” Jochen’s project manager was understanding as well and is a parent herself. He recalled, “She said it would be the best thing I would ever do, and she was right.”

“It’s a fabulous experience because Oliver gets the one on one time with his mom, but he also gets it with his dad. I felt like I could really be there and make a difference.”

Jochen’s friends were equally supportive. Although, Jochen noted that a societal bias against fathers taking parental leave persists on a global level. He mentioned, “While I have been on leave I have noticed how few fathers there are taking parental leave. I didn’t realize it was such a small number.” A wealth of research supports Jochen’s perception, and a 2017 study found 66% of mothers use all their available parental leave while just 36% of fathers do (Society for Human Resource Management).

The many benefits of parental leave for his family are what Jochen values most as his leave empowered Clare to return to her work sooner while Jochen shared foundational bonding time with Oliver. Jochen believes, “It’s a fabulous experience because Oliver gets the one on one time with his mom, but he also gets it with his dad. I felt like I could really be there and make a difference.”

Jochen found that working while Clare was on maternity leave and switching roles after eight months gave him and Clare new perspectives regarding each other’s experiences and sacrifices. For one, Jochen noted his paternity leave gave him an appreciation for how exhausted Clare must have been during her maternity leave. Furthermore, they each expressed to one another after switching roles that they appreciated what the other was going through individually so they could both spend quality time with Oliver while avoiding sacrificing either of their careers.

The next challenge for Clare and Jochen will be splitting caring while they both work full time, but Jochen believes they are prepared thanks to his parental leave and the support he received from SAP as he declared, “This time with Oliver may well end up being the greatest thing I have ever done.”

As part of our EDGE action plan, the Global Diversity and Inclusion Office is launching numerous campaigns to create awareness and change behavior that benefits both men and women. A recent Deloitte survey found 57% of men said taking parental leave would be perceived as a lack of commitment to their careers but a wealth of research shows men who take parental leave are more active and engaged fathers with stronger family relationships, lower divorce rates, and are more successful partners.

Parental leave is also associated with overall improved mental/physical health and well-being for new mothers and new fathers. SAP’s six weeks of paid shared parental leave takes us one step closer to gender equality as parents share child-caring responsibilities more equally and mothers, fathers, and SAP see the benefits with happier and more productive employees.

To learn more about gender equality and parental leave, check out Shuchi Sharma’s blog on parental leave at SAP.

This article was originally published on SAP Community