When Travis CI first started in February 2012 with 5 male Founders, they didn’t put much thought into where the next employee would live and certainly didn’t think about policies like vacation or conference attendance, least of all maternity/paternity leave. We’re now in our 4th year and currently have 12 male and 11 female Builders (that’s what we call employees), 8 of whom are living in the US (initially, our American employees were hired as contractors due our company being in Germany, but to us they’re all employees). As our company has grown over the years and we’ve increased our US coverage, we’ve had the challenge of finding a balance between the German and American startup work culture. At the same time, with 3 female employees being pregnant at the beginning of the year, all of whom we hired knowing they were already pregnant, we needed to figure out what, if anything, we were offering for maternity leave. In Germany the maternity laws are quite generous with 14 months of paid leave being covered by the government. One of our employees was covered by this. The other two were employees based in the US and while we try to offer the same benefits to our American employees as we do to the German ones, we didn’t have anything in place for parental leave.
Let me digress for a bit and say that I am an American woman living in Berlin. I moved here in March of 2015 to seek a better life for myself and my future (far far future!) family. After living in San Francisco and working for startups the past 7 years, I have been disappointed time and time again by the offers made (or lack thereof) to pregnant employees. Once I even worked for a company that created a Dogs In The Office policy before creating a Maternity Leave policy… So when our CEO asked me to do some research and make a proposal for our US Maternity/Paternity Leave policy, I took it very seriously and wanted to offer something beyond the bare minimum.
You would be amazed at what I discovered during my research. From companies offering a small amount of money to help cover the time away, to somewhat generous paid time off plus cash bonuses, to companies offering as little as 2 weeks. TWO WEEKS! Another astounding thing was that most of the offerings were not equal for mothers and fathers. While I can understand the need for the mother to have more time away with her baby, having her partner around to not only assist her, but also bond with the baby is crucial. So after a couple of weeks of research, we made a decision to offer our expectant mothers AND fathers:
- 2 weeks before the due date paid at 100% (optional, but recommended)
- 20 weeks for normal births paid at 100%
- 24 weeks for births with complications paid at 100%
- Flexible working hours after the 20/24 weeks are complete (part-time arrangements can be made)
- Your job will be here for you when you return
When we relayed this information to the two US employees, one became a little teary because her last employer (a much bigger and older company), didn’t offer anything. This being her second child, it was a huge relief to know she was going to have paid time off with flexibility upon return. While it was a great reaction, it shouldn’t happen this way. If you value your employees, you should value their need for time away. At the same time, if you want to hire someone, whether or not they are already pregnant should be irrelevant.
We’re continuously working on making Travis CI an inclusive and family-friendly place to work, and offering all of our employees time off with their new-borns is an important part of that.