There’s parental leave. And then there’s Austrian parental leave. In 2019 it became obligatory for employers in Austria to allow fathers to take "Papa Monat" or "Daddy’s month" – 31 days of leave after the birth of their child. "Familienzeitbonus" also encourages employed fathers to dedicate their time to their family – putting their work on hold to share parental responsibilities and precious moments with their partner. And did we mention that whoever takes the first year of parental leave gets 80% of their salary?
Obligatory – and embraced
For us here at Zühlke, these laws reflect a breath of fresh air that perfectly echoes the work/life balance ethos of our organization.
“Our employees are not just part of a workforce, they are people with personal needs,” says Doris Steindl, Zühlke’s Head of Human Resources in Austria. “Men and women want to take care of their children and we support that wholeheartedly. We are very lucky with the laws here and what they allow our employees to do. For example, if you decide to stay at home after having a child, you can do so for up to 24 months. Life can’t be all about work. People have personal priorities – whether you’re a parent or a carer. We don’t just follow the law because we’re obliged to – we embrace the sentiment it represents, and say to our teams: enjoy it and benefit from it, with zero guilt or fear of losing your job.”
Diversity thanks to flexibility
The concern that your position may not be there when you get back from parental leave is a very real one – for men and women across the world. But at Zühlke we are on a mission to attract more women into IT and software.
With this in mind, we ensure it’s possible not only to have a family and share the load, but to continue your career progression throughout it. We do this not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it strengthens the project-cycles 90% of our employees follow – where it’s easy to drop in and out of ongoing work.
Additionally, we regularly support parents and carers to work reduced hours. But importantly, gaps in the working year aren’t just for new parents – any person can ask for time away from work or flexi-time, if needed, according to Doris Steindl.
“Lots of employees from other countries are pleasantly surprised when they discover what our law allows here in Austria. At Zühlke, diversity is very important and flexibility allows this. It means our employees make choices that are right for them. In the pandemic, we saw our teams work very hard - remotely. And it was hard for those who have children. But we asked everyone to mark home-schooling in their Outlook calendars, so we were all aware of when they could work or not. This is just one example of what flexibility looks like to us. It’s important to do work that matters – whether that’s bringing up your child or being a software engineer. And we continue to listen to everyone’s work/life balance requests and accommodate them wherever possible.”
Parental cover to career opportunities
For those covering the jobs of men and women after the birth of their children, doors can open after the assignment finishes. With such an expanding team and growing business, once you get to know the lay of the land, the people and our special Zühlke way, there are many occasions where parental leave covers evolve into full-blown job offers.
Staying home and staying sharp
But what about those employees who want to stay at home and stay sharp when on parental leave? Well, there’s a great choice of development courses that anyone on parental leave can take. Although not necessary, one to two days of upskilling here and there is all part of Zühlke’s employee benefits – although we don’t consider it compulsory to ‘stay in the game’.
“We always offer those on parental leave the possibility to continue their professional development – if that’s what they want to do, of course,” explains Zühlke’s Head of HR in Austria. “If there is extra time, they can take advantage of our learning incentives at home. You may want to stay sharp and not be cut off. Then there are various social events and ‘townhall’ meetings, that employees on parental leave are always invited to. We use these meet-ups to say: we still enjoy that connection, even if you’re taking well-deserved time with your family.”
Of course, babies, milk bottles and pacifiers are entirely welcome at these online catch-ups too.