Paternity Leave: A Learning Experience for Guenter Pecht
Guenter has been with SAP for 23 years, 20 of which as a manager. Currently, he is leading a team designed to bring innovation to SAP’s Workplace of the Future workstream and revolutionize how the workplace is constructed in terms of benefits, remote work, and culture. One benefit Guenter and his team keep top of mind is Germany’s paternity and maternity leave law.
When his first two children were born, there was no paternity leave legislation, but Guenter says attitudes have changed tremendously since then in favor of men taking more active roles as caregivers. Today, a more experienced Guenter was determined to take paternity leave with his third child and reflected, “I felt I should take paternity leave because after my first two sons were born in 1996 and 1999, I invested a lot of time and effort into my career as it was just the beginning of my time here at SAP, and I always had a feeling that I had missed something. This time, I realize there is more to life than just my career and my work.”
“There are different priorities in life, but when you take paternity leave you come back to work with more passion, and a really positive overall feeling. It gives you a better sense of what’s truly important in life.”
As a German citizen, Guenter was fortunate enough to take paternity leave due to a German law which mandates paid maternity and paternity leave. As a result, paternity leave is common in Germany, and Guenter has managed several employees within the last couple of years who have taken paternity leave. In fact, the vast majority of German fathers that Guenter knows have taken paternity leave. Guenter was surprised to learn about research which suggests some fathers are less likely to take all of their leave—or parental leave at all (66% of women use all their available parental leave while 36% of men do).
Like many parents who choose to use their leave, Guenter and his wife discussed how to divide it into increments that worked best for the family. Guenter took off the first and thirteenth month after his child’s birth, and his wife was able to take 12 months off.
At the time of Guenter’s paternity leave, his team was going through a re-organization, which left many with questions regarding how they would function without their leader during a confusing and stressful time. But with good preparation and a capable substitute Guenter was insistent that he use his paternity leave, and he knew his team would be just fine in the end. “Everybody is replaceable, and we should design for it. For me, taking paternity leave was not a question as I knew that the re-organization would also run smoothly without me,” Guenter shared.
Guenter feels he hasn’t experienced any bias against paternity leave personally, and he is an open and transparent communicator which allows his team to see his true intentions. “I have never had any negative reaction about taking paternity leave. I told my team that emotions are important in the professional setting, so it was no surprise to anyone that I took leave,” he said. Although, Guenter acknowledges that this might not be the case for employees based outside of Germany.
Part of why Guenter took paternity leave with his third child was because he felt a responsibility to assist his wife in every way he could. “Especially during the first few weeks, my time was more about supporting my wife with the day-to-day tasks than spending time with my son,” Guenter recalled. From cleaning the house to grocery shopping and everything in-between, Guenter wanted to do all he could to support his wife with a newborn baby at home.
Although Guenter’s paternity leave taught him to prioritize other aspects of his life aside from his career, he returned from paternity leave a happier and more productive worker. As Guenter put it, “There are different priorities in life, but when you take paternity leave you get back to work with more passion, and a really positive overall feeling. It gives you a better sense of what’s truly important in life.”
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 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.