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Parental Leave: How a Supportive Team made a World of Difference for Zach Markin

A Business Analyst with SAP Fieldglass, currently on a Fellowship with the Sustainability Team, Zach Markin took advantage of SAP’s U.S. policy which grants new fathers up to six weeks of fully-paid parental leave when his son, Jory, was born.

Because Jory was his second child (his son Julian just turned two!), Zach was well-aware of SAP’s parental leave policy. Just as importantly, his managers were as well, and they all encouraged him to use his parental leave benefit. With their blessing, Zach planned to start his leave around the July 12th due date.But Jory was tired of waiting around; he arrived on June 10th, five weeks ahead of schedule, and all Zach’s planning efforts were thrown out the window. Luckily, he had extensive support from his team, “My wife (Laura) and I had to figure everything out on the fly, but SAP and our benefits provider made everything super easy,” Zach recalled. He was especially appreciative of his colleagues and managers as they all understood the benefits of parental leave and says his management team, “Couldn’t have been more understanding from the get-go.”

A few days after Jory was born, Zach emailed his team to discuss plans for when he would return and who could handle his work in the meantime. They insisted he not worry about work, take the time he needed, and above all enjoy and appreciate the experience and time with his family. In fact, simply based on the attitudes he has encountered at SAP, Zach has little doubt that the company is a leader in parental leave and offers a superior level of support for new mothers and new fathers.

“Caring for an infant is not a one-person job. It doesn’t matter who’s feeding the baby or anything like that – it is not something that can or should be done alone. There is always so much to do and on so little sleep.”

Some of Zach’s friends and family members have reported vastly different experiences with their leave. He noted, “I know many dads who were lucky to take a day or two to be with their child.” One even returned to his office just hours after his first daughter was born! Zach’s own parents were never afforded the same opportunities as SAP parents, and he believes that parental leave, especially paternity leave, comes with somewhat of a generational bias.

When discussing his leave with some family members, he sensed that while they are certainly supportive, it still gives them some pause as many had attitudes similar to: “Go ahead and take the time, but are you sure that is okay with your boss? Are you sure you can still keep your job?”
After Jory was born in June, Zach used three weeks of his paid leave, which was especially beneficial for his wife, “Originally, I was only going to take two weeks but I witnessed the insanity around our house and wanted to help my wife as much as possible.”

One of the most valuable takeaways for Zach and Laura was being able to spend so much time with Julian – a chance they would not otherwise have had – and to see how much he loved his new brother from the start.

Zach plans to use his remaining parental leave when Laura returns to work to support her even further and enable her to return to work sooner if she chooses. Zach pointed out, “Caring for an infant is not a one-person job. It doesn’t matter who’s feeding the baby or anything like that – it is not something that can or should be done alone. There is always so much to do and on so little sleep.” Zach says sleep is still hard to come by – getting five hours on a good night, but he is incredibly grateful for SAP’s support and flexible work-from-home policy, adding, “I can’t say enough good things about how SAP makes life do-able for mothers and fathers.”

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.

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