8 - The Unspoken Sides of Mat Leave

During this solo episode, Alexa and Tyson talk about the unspoken emotions that come with going on leave. Uncovering differences between US and Canada they chat about the challenges of using one-sized fits all approach to leave, the challenges of a proper ‘return to work’ strategy, and why it’s important to never make assumptions about someone going on or returning from family leave.







Release Date: August 10, 2021

[00:00:00] Operator: Warning. This podcast is about the realities of working in people operations. This is not a stuck-up PC compliance-based or employment law podcast about stuffy outdated HR practices. Shit will get real here and we assume no responsibility.

[00:00:16] Tyson Mackenzie: We had a strict no-alcohol policy and everybody was like, "Ooh, don't drink. HR is here." Meanwhile, I'm mid-crack for beer.

[00:00:24] Alexa Baggio: If they're that disengaged before they're going to be that disengaged in the office just be sitting at their desk looking at Facebook. They are going to find ways to [unintelligible 00:00:30].

[00:00:31] Operator: This is the People Problems podcast with Alexa Baggio and Tyson Mackenzie.

[00:00:39] Alexa: What's up, Tyson.

[00:00:40] Tyson: I need a better answer for this. Every time you say, "What's up?" and I'm like, "Not much."

[00:00:43] Alexa: Yes, I've given you lots of opportunities and I haven't changed the question. Your lack of preparedness is on you, my dear.

[00:00:51] Tyson: All right. What's up? At the time of recording, I'm almost 30 weeks pregnant.

[00:00:56] Alexa: Oh, coming in hot.

[00:00:57] Tyson: Okay, coming in hot.

[00:00:58] Alexa: Here we go. Here we go.

[00:00:59] Tyson: By the time this episode is released, I'll probably be closer to like what? 33 or 35. Let's just keep that context in mind for the listeners.

[00:01:08] Alexa: All right. The context for today's conversation is that Tyson, our dear friend, is expecting. Congratulations. Very exciting for you.

[00:01:14] Tyson: Thank you. Thank you.

[00:01:16] Alexa: When are you due?

[00:01:17] Tyson: September 20th, which is actually the day after my first wedding anniversary.

[00:01:21] Alexa: Oh, was that timed or?

[00:01:24] Tyson: No.

[00:01:24] Alexa: No? Coincidence? A winky dink.

[00:01:26] Tyson: Just total coincidence.

[00:01:28] Alexa: That's awesome. You're expecting in September. This is your first, yes?

[00:01:31] Tyson: Yes.

[00:01:32] Alexa: Awesome. Congratulations. Very exciting. Boy, girl, don't know, don't want to know?

[00:01:35] Tyson: Girl.

[00:01:36] Alexa: Girl. All right.

[00:01:37] Tyson: 1000% a girl.

[00:01:39] Alexa: HR Shook Jr. Here we go.

[00:01:41] Tyson: You're not supposed to say this, but like, damn, I want a mini-me so badly and I just [crosstalk].

[00:01:46] Alexa: I feel bad when you have a second and it's a son. Ugh.

[00:01:49] Tyson: No, and that will be just as nice and beautiful and all these things, but I--

[00:01:53] Alexa: Everyone says you're not supposed to say shit like that, but the reality is you're fucking thinking it anyway.

[00:01:57] Tyson: That's going to be this episode. Let's preface these things are so sensitive and I'm not a huge trigger warning fan, but folks like this episode is going to be about pregnancy and I just want to like acknowledge the fact that this is a really sensitive topic for a lot of people, so-

[00:02:13] Alexa: Yes, and this is two people,-

[00:02:14] Tyson: -let's just put that out there.

[00:02:15] Alexa: -one of which, myself, who's never had kids and it isn't on my list of things to do right now. Although maybe that'll change and I'm open to that. Before you could send me a bunch of messages about how I should definitely have kids and I'd be a great mom. Thanks. I've already thought of that, and Tyson who's having her first. That's the context for this conversation. We can't have context for things we are not, but I applaud you for being willing to talk about this on this podcast because I think it's important.

Actually, one of the things I want to talk about or engage here, Tyson, for people that don't know, it's just the incredible disparities between the way that Canada and the United States handle maternity leave. Let's start there because I want everyone in the US who listens to this to hear what Canada does for mat leave.

[00:02:54] Tyson: In Canada, our basic maternity leave is 12 months, but you do have the option and you get your government subsidy, which is 55% of your base salary up to, I think $550 a week in Ontario, I can only speak to Ontario, but it's pretty consistent. 12 months is consistent across Canada.

[00:03:14] Alexa: 12 months up to 55% of your base salary maxed at C$550 per week. 2,200 bucks a month.

[00:03:25] Tyson: Yes.

[00:03:25] Alexa: Okay. Got it.

[00:03:27] Alexa: That's the basic, and now you also have the option legally to take 18 months. You do not get any more money though. I think the percentage is, it's 35% versus 55% and it caps out. Let's say, what is it? 2,200 a month times 12, whatever that is, you'd get the same amount should you take 18 months? Then most companies here do some sort of top-up. They'll top up the first 34 weeks or something like that. You're making, I don't know, usually between 85% and 90% of your salary for at least part of your mat leave or all of your mat leave.

[00:03:59] Alexa: I just want to be very clear, I know there's some people in the US who are going to listen to this with their fucking jaws on the floor. The Canadian government will cover up to $550 a week for a whole year of maternity leave and it is basically culturally expected that your employer will top up or add to the beginning of that so that you are making 80% to 90% of your salary for, what did you say the average top-up is? How many weeks?

[00:04:25] Tyson: I know for me, I think it's between usually 34, 35, some places if you're working for the government, then it's even more.

[00:04:30] Alexa: Weeks?

[00:04:31] Tyson: Yes. It's wild. Plus you're getting benefits.

[00:04:35] Alexa: Wow.

[00:04:37] Tyson: You're getting all your benefits and everything like that during that time. Some things get paused, but things like your health benefits, of course, you continue to have.

[00:04:46] Alexa: Well, yes, Canadian healthcare is a whole other conversation. Every episode we just come up with more new episodes, that one might frustrate me too much to talk about though in the United States. I'm certainly no expert in this and as with all things in the United States, it varies greatly depending on the state that you live in. Average maternity leave here is expected to be employer-paid somewhere between 3 and 12 to 16 weeks.

[00:05:14] Tyson: Yes, I hear mostly six weeks for the states. [crosstalk]

[00:05:17] Alexa: Yes, that is pretty much the average. There's a couple of reasons for that. One, there are just now starting to be things like the FMLA Act and some other things that will say that employees can take state-sponsored short-term leave because of childbearing. We don't have this crazy Canadian system where it's expected that the government will cover us on these things. Then the average is like I said, I think it's probably about six weeks for most employers. That would be a good package. There are definitely certain industries like retail and some other places where it's not nearly as generous.

There has also been a movement in the States, especially with some of the bigger tech companies, especially with [unintelligible 00:05:57] the female and all that jazz before COVID. That was like, let's try to move these 2, 3, 6, 9, 12-month stents. I would say most of the creativity that's been happening in the United States is really around this idea of removing the burden from being just mom's leave and to being FMLA leave. That I actually am a huge supporter of, regardless of the fact that 6 weeks in comparison to 12 months sounds fucking pathetic.

[00:06:24] Tyson: I should mention on that point of the FMLA leave is, I think it was recently, maybe 2017. They added an additional five weeks that the other parent can take. For me, my husband can take five weeks in which he's also getting 55%, or up to I think it's $550 a week, that does not take away from my mat leave. Whereas normally, let's say, I wanted to do six months, and my husband wanted to do six months, that amount is split, but they added an additional five weeks that the other partner can take.

[00:07:03] Alexa: Is that so that you can overlap or so that you can further stagger?

[00:07:07] Tyson: It's so that I can still take a year, and he can take five weeks. We both get what we call EI or Employment Insurance in Canada. which is like what's paying us.

[00:07:15] Alexa: Everybody who gets really mad at the United States about the extra lefties, just know that the country above us, this shit is fucking standard. It's beyond standard. My first point is like, "Oh, my God, the disparities." Look, the biggest disparity between United States and Canada is the government support, right? That's what makes us largely different countries. That and some funny accents, and currency. That's about the only difference between our countries. First of all, that's incredible. What are some of the things, Tyson, now that you got the cat out of the bag, you've done this personally. What are some of the things you see in this process that may be frustrate you, but also that you think are really important to shed light on?

[00:07:58] Tyson: Yes, so and this was where I feel like people are going to like, all the Americans are going to roll their eyes. We get a year. That is amazing. I'm grateful for the year.

[00:08:06] Alexa: You don't have to take the year.

[00:08:08] Tyson: You don't have to take a year. You can take however long you want.

[00:08:11] Alexa: You could take the 36 weeks that your employer will cover and just go back to work?

[00:08:14] Tyson: Yes, yes. Then if your spouse wanted to take the time or whatever, you can split it that way. Like you absolutely do not have to take the year. For me, taking the year, it's actually something that's causing the most anxiety.

[00:08:29] Alexa: It's a long-ass time.

[00:08:30] Tyson: It is a long-ass time, especially for someone who is at the point in their career where they're like picking up momentum, look, I'm going on five years in HR, I'm at a company that I love, in a job that I love. The thoughts of leaving that right now is causing a lot of emotional stress. Before you have a child, obviously, you identify with something else. For me, obviously, I identified so much of who I am with my job and with HR, and with everything, I do in this space. It's very like, "What am I going to do for a year?" Which I know everybody who's a mom is probably like laughing. I get people laughing at me about this all the time.

The thoughts of just being home and not working, it's impossible for me to fathom right now. I imagine that when baby comes, it will be very different. I'll be very busy doing all the things that moms do. Whatever that is. That is something that I think a lot of people don't, again, this is from a Canadian perspective, but we don't really talk about a lot. As I've shared my fears with leaving work and being forgotten and having FOMO, when my replacement is going to come in and they're going to do so much better than me and all that shit that you think about.

As I've sort of been more open about having this conversation with other female friends. It's like, everybody feels the same way. It's something that people don't talk a lot about. Then having to reintegrate into the workforce after the year, which we can maybe talk about. That's my biggest thing that I think I want to shed light on is just like, to take time off work is actually really, really stressful.

[00:10:12] Alexa: I think there's this common misconception that it's like people just want the leave so they can fuck off and do nothing and it's seen as this entitlement program and it's like no, there's real consequences to this decision. It's not about how much leave can I get away with, it's about what's the right amount of time for me to both start my family and to your point, not feel like I just took a gigantic career step backwards. First of all, thank you for saying that out loud, there's nothing we love here on People Problems more than a good taboo topic.

We're obviously going to double pick on this, but I do think it is a massive disservice we talk about the-- In the states, it's a very state-centric opinion here. We talk about the time off as if it is the only piece of this equation and that everything about having kids while you're in your working years is about the time off and is it too much time? Is it not enough time? Is it too much time to come back from? Is it not enough time to enjoy with your kid? If you come back too early, you're a bad mom, if you come back too late you're a bad employee. It's like there's no fuckin winning in this argument, right?

[00:11:17] Tyson: There's no winning.

[00:11:18] Alexa: It's so shitty because it is the reason this doesn't get fixed faster and the culture around it's not better because we're just spinning in a fuckin circle talking about it the same way for 40 years. I think it's hard to walk through the steps of how do you create and design a way for employees to do two things at once. Look, there are trade-offs. Everyone makes trade-offs. If you want to work four days a week remote, you might pick a different job than if you're like I want to be CEO of a public company by 35, you might do different things. Right? Everybody takes-

[00:11:56] Tyson: Right.

[00:11:56] Alexa: -lifestyle choices. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making the choice to have kids and anybody who implies that about women who work should fuck off, but lots of people do it. The fact that we're not better at this, at this point is like over 50% of the population does this every year.

[00:12:11] Tyson: But the expectations to do both and to do both perfectly are even not what I was--

[00:12:18] Alexa: The mommy paradox like damned if you do, damned if you don't.

[00:12:21] Tyson: Exactly, because there's so many things, it's like, "Oh well, you need to breastfeed, and then if you're breastfeeding, well, then you can't go back to work because you need to take a year off and blah, blah, blah." That's why I think breastfeeding rates in the states are so low because people go back to work after six weeks and it's impossible. Although this is funny--

[00:12:37] Alexa: Pumping is getting real popular around here.

[00:12:39] Tyson: Pumping rooms are definitely getting popular. My mom actually back in the early '90s, she went back to work while she was still breastfeeding, which is-

[00:12:47] Alexa: [crosstalk] Amazing.

[00:12:47] Tyson: -she's a fuckin hero. Anyways, there's just so much pressure because then people are like, "Oh, if you're so worried about taking a year off, then why don't you take less time off?" Because then I'm like, "Oh shit, you have this one year, and I'm going to miss things." Then you have this pressure that you have to be breastfeeding for the first year and I would do my child a disservice if I didn't take the-- It's just this total mind fuck that you go through when you're making these decisions, not to mention the cost of daycare, which is absolutely ludicrous. I'll tell you that right now, it's ludicrous. It's insane.

I think it's pretty comparable actually in Canada and the US. I happen to be with some folks in the US--

[00:13:25] Alexa: I think it's insane everywhere.

[00:13:27] Tyson: Yes, for sure. It's just this double-edged sword and you cannot win. You can't do it all and sometimes it's funny because my husband is like, "Oh, you know you're so lucky, blah, blah, blah," and I'm like, ah, I need to be grateful but then I feel bad about feeling bad and it's yucky. I don't think enough people talk about that.

[00:13:48] Alexa: Yes. It is yucky. I also think like you said, the state's version of this is like why the fuck would you take a whole year? Right?

[00:13:55] Tyson: Right.

[00:13:55] Alexa: You're choosing to do that. That's like, yes, in here we're all cutthroat capitalists and it's like get your ass back to your desk. Look for some people I think that's the right decision, for other people I think it's not. I think that we do a major disservice by not talking about this with more layers as with all things in this industry. I think there's not enough nuance to this conversation, but I think it's really important for people to remember, you're choosing to take time away, it doesn't render you fuckin useless.

There's two big taboos in the states at least I think this gets, one is that you're going to miss so much time, by the time you come back you're going to be useless. It's like okay, first of all, six weeks is not that much fuckin time.

[00:14:34] Tyson: Yes, seriously.

[00:14:34] Alexa: If you were a Jedi going into your mat leave, you're going to come back six weeks later and you'd probably just be way better because you've actually had a proper break, right? It's shorter than-

[00:14:41] Tyson: Right.

[00:14:41] Alexa: -a fuckin sabbatical. It's literally shorter than the average sabbatical, I would bet my life on it. The second piece of this is that people just assume, "Oh, we're going to pay for this person to go on leave and they're definitely going to quit afterwards. This person just wants to be a mom, I'm just going to wind up paying for them to leave anyway." Which is a huge fucking concern amongst employers.

I have a friend who works at a bustling startup in New York City, female CEO. She was in the people team and they were designing their first mat leave policies. A couple of females in the office had gotten pregnant but there was an offhand comment made by the CEO. That was like, "Why are we giving them so much mat leave? They're just going to quit afterward anyway." You're a fucking female CEO with kids. How the fuck did that just come out of your mouth in front of anyone, let alone out of your mouth at all.

Second of all, let's unpack that for a second because if your fear is that you're just going to pay for people to leave, isn't it okay to pay for them to leave anyway? If someone is going to leave, they're going to leave. You can't fucking control that. All you can do is try your best to keep them, try your best to be the right environment, try your best to be the right fit, and try your best to make them productive employees. People quit all the time with or without kids. If they're going to leave and they leave at the end of you having paid for them to be with their child, I'm going to argue from a brand perspective to the larger ecosystem for your business.

That's a fucking positive because they're going to attribute that time and that break and that ability to be with their kid while being paid to your company. Why is that such a bad thing versus being like, "Oh, we're going to make the mat leave really short to encourage you not to come back or we're going to encourage you basically to leave after mat leave because now that you have kids, you're definitely going to be a subpar employee." It's like, "What the fuck is this?"

[00:16:29] Tyson: I hate that. I hate that people, it's like black and white's dichotomous thinking where it's like, "Oh, as soon as you're a mom, you're only going to want to be a mom and you're not going to want to come back to work and you're going to forget all your [crosstalk]"

[00:16:40] Alexa: I got a lot of friends that are fuckin gangsters. They got lots of kids. It's hard. It was expensive. A lot of them have help.

[00:16:48] Tyson: You need help. I don't know. There's like a scene in Sex and the City and they're like, "How do the people without help do it?" I don't know. That probably sounds like I'm coming from a place of major privilege. I feel like I have to keep acknowledging, how grateful I am and how lucky I am and all those things, which is another really fucked up thing that pregnant people have to do. It's bizarre to make an assumption that once a woman gets pregnant and has their baby, they're going to go off and stay off work forever.

I have a friend who is in academia and it's a very male-oriented field. It's economics and she's terrified to the point where she can't even if she decides that she doesn't want to have a beer or something when they all have like faculty meetings and stuff. It's taboo for her to ask for a glass of water because she just doesn't feel like having a beer because rumor mill starts all of a sudden.

[00:17:49] Alexa: Oh, she must be pregnant.

[00:17:51] Tyson: She must be pregnant. She must be trying to get pregnant. She's no longer committed to this. That's how bad it is still. I'm like, holy shit, I'm turning 21.

[00:18:00] Alexa: Every female in hi-- like some ridiculous majority of females in history has had fucking kids. A lot of women still do a lot of shit. What the fuck is, especially in academia, it's a flexible work environment. You got wifi, the kid only sleeps and eats so many hours a day. Why don't we have a conversation about keeping you engaged if you want to be and how to get you back in a really effective manner instead of being like, "Oh, because you chose to do something for yourself and for your family, you must not be committed to this." It's like why can't two things be true at once.

[00:18:33] Tyson: Exactly. I think the sweet spot here, it's this assumption that if you have a child, you're no longer going to be committed to your work and to your-- If you're getting a PhD in something, you're freaking committed to. You have committed your life to that subject or anyone who's working through a career and look a lot of people who may not be as ambitious or career-focused, they're going to love taking all the time off that they can, or--

[00:19:02] Alexa: It's okay to be one of those people. Not everybody needs to be a fucking ladder climber and an A-type overachiever. It's okay to just be all right where you're at. In some ways, it's enviable.

[00:19:14] Tyson: No, we need those worker fees. We talked about that recently, but it is interesting and it's emotional. I feel there are so many moving parts to going off work, whether it's for a long period of time because you're thinking like, "Oh, shit, I'm going to get forgotten about the company's going to change completely when I get back." Or if it's for a short time and you're thinking, "Am I going to be a good mom?" It's just this again, this dichotomous thinking where people don't think that they can do both and like that women can't-

[00:19:46] Alexa: I just feel like we have-

[00:19:47] Tyson: -have it all.

[00:19:47] Alexa: -to stop having that conversation and have the conversation-

[00:19:50] Tyson: I know.

[00:19:50] Alexa: -of how can they do both? I realize that I'm not the first fuckin person to say that, I'm not the first fuckin person to say almost anything in my head. I'm not that original. Why is it so hard in this industry to breach this conversation? Most of HR is female. HR is like an 80% fucking female. If anybody could figure this out, it's us. Like, what the fuck?

[00:20:12] Tyson: Yes. Let's not forget, like, again, it is 2021. Now there is typically not always a partner that's involved in this whole situation. That needs to become more of a thing as well. Women are always like, "Okay, how the hell am I going to be the best mom and be the best CEO?"

[00:20:34] Alexa: It's unhealthy. [crosstalk]

[00:20:35] Tyson: Doing all the things like lean on the other person. I don't know. I'm really lucky. I have an extremely supportive husband and he probably has better parental instincts than I do if we're being honest. He pitching in and helping and all that thing. It does take a lot of that as well. I think that that's super important because there's so much pressure on women all the time. Even during your pregnancy.

[00:21:06] Alexa: Look we're also talking about an instance, sorry to interrupt you, but we're talking about an instance where you're getting to make a very deliberate choice. You get to do this. You get to have this kid. You get to keep your job. You get to get your leave. These are all things I agree. There's some gratefulness to be handed out there. You're not required to be grateful, but you're also not required to have a kid it's 2021. We don't have to do that anymore. I know that's probably controversial. I know there are some places and some classes and cast of society where that's just not acceptable. It's like you're pregnant. You have the kid.

I will not go down that rabbit hole, but the reality is that's where this gets even harder is when it's you're planning for situations where there's not so much deliberate choice and it's largely in lower-income communities. It's larger families. It's different cultural dynamics. This was all the shit Sheryl Sandberg got for Lean In. Everybody was like, "Yes, it's great to say all the shit you said in your book, except that like your kids have a $90,000 a year fucking babysitter" Cool, of course, you could lean in. I think that's true. Let's not sugarcoat it. There are some instances where it is easier to get back to work because you have help.

I think what is just a like totally untapped challenge is how do we do that? How do we do it in a way that's creative? That is not for the people that can afford the help. That is not for the people that can say, "Well, I have the family to help me." Look this is sometimes employers have to step in. It's like one of the fun parts of working in this industry is like sometimes the buck stops at the company and you just go cool. We've got full-time babysitters on staff. That's a cheap fucking solution. It's a very cheap solution compared to a bright diamond or whatever these fucking like all these childcare providers are. Those things are a fortune.

[00:22:47] Tyson: You can-- [crosstalk]

[00:22:49] Alexa: Or flexible work. We don't talk about that enough in the US.

[00:22:52] Tyson: No. This is like a very, very simple thing. It requires literally like no money from my employer, but where I am it's really hard to get into daycares. You have to put yourself on the waitlist, like a hundred years in advance. Some people are putting their kids on the wait. My baby is already scheduled for daycare for September 2022. That's how crazy it is. You really do have to get in early, but this is such a tiny little thing. My employer has a partnership with the daycare center that ranges across Canada. They basically guarantee a spot for your kid. Although they're not giving me any money at all. They're not giving me any-- because I think I waived the registration [crosstalk]

[00:23:32] Alexa: You're making it easier for you to get back to work because you've got childcare to come back.

[00:23:32] Tyson: Right. The stress of wait lists and all that is just taken off my shoulder. It's such a small thing, but I remember when I found that out, I was like, ah. Honestly, because I was-- [crosstalk]

[00:23:40] Alexa: That's thoughtful and that's cheap. Doesn't cost people or-

[00:23:44] Tyson: So cheap.

[00:23:44] Alexa: -anything. It's like, [crosstalk] I've got this many thousands of employees, maybe they pay some waitlist fee. They get it back when those people book because you can't predict how many kids people are going to have usually, but you probably get pretty close. Across a large population law of large numbers. I think that's such a good example of like that's thoughtful, that's deliberate. It's going to help you get back. To be fair, so there's got to be, if I've learned anything in the last year with COVID, there's got to be a benefit and we have to stop looking at it as a detriment.

There has got to be a benefit to saying to someone on your team, I want you to not think about this for an extended period of time. When you come back, I'm really fucking excited to see the lens you put on some of the issues we're working on. Because when COVID happened, what it was was for a lot of people, it was a constraint. All of a sudden, now people have to work within this constraint. When you go take a break, it's a constraint, but it's also just a chance to let your brain go places it doesn't normally go and you come back.

It's like why sabbaticals and time off and all this shit we've studied now at this point is so beneficial. It's like you get to give your brain a different gear. Why are we looking at this? Like, "Oh, like you're going to come back and you're definitely not-- You're not going to be up to speed. You're going to lose all this institutional knowledge." It's like, are you still a good person? Are you still a good worker? Are you still curious? Are you still engaged with the work that you're doing and do they have the process in place to make sure you get back up to speed as fast as you can? If you want to commit to that, then you can onboard employee in 90 days. Why couldn't you re-onboard an employee in less than that? It seems like stupid.

[00:25:15] Tyson: Re-onboarding is essential. A lot of companies just don't do a good job.

[00:25:21] Alexa: No. They don't do it at all.

[00:25:21] Tyson: They're like oh or they don't do it at all. Exactly.

[00:25:22] Alexa: Or they're like the manager will figure it out. I'm like, "Oh this is the one time you want to give the manager the fucking opportunity to do something. Fuck you guys.

[00:25:29] Tyson: It's actually to the point where my fear is so strong about being replaced in my current role that I've already started thinking like--

[00:25:38] Alexa: You're irreplaceable, Tyson

[00:25:40] Tyson: Nobody's irreplaceable, unfortunately.

[00:25:42] Alexa: You're irreplaceable on the People Problems podcast as Tyson.

[00:25:48] Tyson: I've already started thinking what is my strategy for getting back into the work? Do I jump ship on my current role and try to start something new like start a new job entire, I'm going to have to re-onboard anyways might as well take a jump in the organization and try something new. I don't even know if that's an option or anything. These are the things that I'm thinking about.

[00:26:06] Alexa: Have you been given again, I'm just going to ask it out of fucking ignorance. Have you been given any opportunities to choose to engage a little bit while you're out? Hey, I can't do the work or I can't commit to these things but like I just want to stay in the know on the following things because it'll help me when I get back and I can choose to engage in those or not.

[00:26:24] Tyson: Absolutely. Which I love. One of the previous companies I worked for, we actually shut down people's computer access while they went on maternity leave which I think is absolutely despicable. At my current role, you have complete access. You can still continue to attend any of the major discussions that you want. You technically shouldn't be doing work otherwise like the EI people are going to come after you but you can touch in with your colleagues.

You can attend major town hall meetings, our major events for the year like those types of things. Check Slack to just to see big announcements, you can ask your boss, "Please give me updates on any reorgs, any major leadership changes." If the big stuff like he in the loop. What I've heard is usually for the first few weeks obviously you're just trying to figure out how to be a parent but then once you get to the five, six-month mark, you start getting curious and that's when people usually go back into looking at what's going on in the company but yes. There is opportunity to stay engaged and, as well as, if opportunities arise, roles, you can ask if something like this comes up let me know.

[00:27:32] Alexa: That's great. I also think it's like just be thoughtful about it. Do you have access to the tools and the resources you need to just stay in on the industry? What subscriptions do we need to buy you? The expectation is if you're still interested in this, you're going to keep doing it anyway. Why would I shun you as if you're not going to do any of this? Worst-case scenario is you get a big long ass break and you come back refreshed and you give us credit for carrying you through arguably one of the most important times of your life.

The worst-case scenario is you don't actually take that break and you come back and you're never really unplugged and maybe there's future down the line ramifications to that as well. I think people just have to be more thoughtful about this. I also think, I recently went through a situation with a colleague where it was just like we don't have enough help and there's a pandemic. My only options are to leave to go be the primary childcare provider or to figure something out. I was like, "Well, we're obviously going to fucking figure something out. Why would we not sit down and talk about this?"

It's not like, "Oh well, I can't work a full exact 40-hour week. I got to go." That's a ridiculous fucking proposition. Why are we not using more tools that are well you get your mat leave especially here in the states where it's so short. Then we give you a couple opportunities to flex your schedule. There's some things that go with that, right? If you're going to reduce your hours or you're going to go to specific hours versus salary which is like the concept that salaries is 40 hours a week these days is fucking laughable. I don't know anybody that works 40 hours a week or less and has a salary but welcome to technology. It is more flexible though.

If you're going to go to these flexible, why not have a conversation about a creative solution? You can go from 40 hours, let's say it's 20 or 30 hours a week. That helps you with certain childcare. You could be there to pick the kid up from school. You could be there for bath time and all these different things. There's no pressure. The downside is that now all of a sudden, your pay is a bit adjusted and maybe there's a couple benefits that you lose.

If your partner can cover those, you'll figure it out. Why is it this all-or-nothing scenario? It's like why can't we create something, I get to keep at 50% of a salary 50% of someone's time a working mom, I get to keep their institutional knowledge in house. I get to keep that person and all their social benefit on the team. I get to take the dollars that I've reduced in their salary and I get to give it to another person. Now, I have two people working on my problem and my project for the price of one. That's a bad thing.

[00:30:00] Tyson: Why break?

[00:30:02] Alexa: I came out of that experience and was like, "Wait a minute. Nobody's talking about. This is so easy." Why wouldn't you give people the opportunity to a couple of times with the first year or two of a kid's life be like, "If you want to flex up or flex down, here's the arrangement? Please feel free to pull this trigger if it helps keep you and your other partner sane, the kid healthy, and you involved in my organization." You get a little less work product, but you have those dollars to spend somewhere else. You've got two people, two brains working on the same problem and you've kept all the positives of having that person on the team. It seems so fucking obvious.

[00:30:37] Tyson: Yes. I think that the trend here is just that black or white thinking that goes into all of this-

[00:30:41] Alexa: All of this HR.

[00:30:41] Tyson: -all of this decision making but I don't know. Maybe is that because typically, the people who have been making decisions like this haven't been the ones having babies time off to have babies.

[00:30:51] Alexa: Possible. Most men are CEOs. Most HR are females. I could see that. I don't know that to be true.

[00:30:58] Tyson: No, but there's a lot of, I think, black and white thinking that goes into all of this, whether it be the way that people work, once they come back to work or thinking about you can either only be a mom or you can only be someone who works. That's I think the conversation that I like to have, and I like to be pretty open about the fact that it's like taking time off work is hard and coming back to work is also hard. It's going to be part on both sides and we'll see, maybe we have this conversation. Just over a year when I'm starting to gear up to go back. It's hard.

I also should mention, I feel like we can't have this conversation without actually talking about what it's like to be pregnant while you're working still. I think that everyone, so I have worked from home my entire pregnancy, anyone who ever had to go into the office during their pregnancy. I just feel like they deserve a gold medal between feeling sick and having to hide it in your first trimester to getting fat and having to have clothes. I have been living in sweat shorts and leggings, which surprisingly, they're still fitting me. I would hate to have had to be in an office this entire time. I'm so grateful that I've been able to be at home.

[00:32:14] Alexa: Could you imagine wearing a dress and heels into the office and being pregnant?

[00:32:17] Tyson: Oh, gosh.

[00:32:18] Tyson: I've never been pregnant and that looks miserable.

[00:32:21] Tyson: A good muumuu is very comfortable.

[00:32:23] Alexa: Yes. I'm not talking the muumuu, I'm talking like one of those structured J.Crew pieces of shit that--

[00:32:27] Tyson: Or dress pants. With the big elastic thing that goes over your belt. No, no, no.

[00:32:33] Alexa: Yes. No, no. Well, I think this entire episode is a salute to both yourself, Tyson, but also for having this conversation. I don't think enough people talk about this. I think mat leave is one of these, everything in this fucking industry, it just gets very black and white. I think people get because it's so black and white, it so immediately goes into areas of fear for humans' worst behavior. People are just going to take advantage of the mat leave and people are definitely going to quit if we pay for a longer mat leave, it's like a paid vacation.

That's fucking old-school thinking, most people are like you, they're very conflicted. They want to work hard. They don't want to derail their careers. They just also want to have a family. They're eager to get back to work. They're eager to podcast [crosstalk] while they're doing mat leave for a year in Canada.

[00:33:18] Tyson: 100%. I feel like I'm going to not have any context if I'm going to be taking so much time off on you. They don't forget how to do with HR.

[00:33:24] Alexa: I won't let you forget. Don't worry. We won't let you forget.

[00:33:28] Tyson: That's very true. From all of the women that I have chatted with about this, they're honestly, by seven months, you're going to be itching to get back to work.

[00:33:37] Alexa: One time in my life from the age of 14, I didn't work for two months and I called it a staycation. I thought it would be fun. A month in, I had started a blog and started I was doing this and I was working for this guy. Some people just can't be bored.

[00:33:51] Tyson: That'll be me.

[00:33:52] Alexa: Exactly.

[00:33:53] Tyson: I've only taken in my career, my very short five-year career in HR. I've only taken twice a consecutive week off. I've never taken more than one week off.

[00:34:05] Alexa: We just talking about how your company has to mandate time off. Sounds like you're a fucking culprit. You're the reason.

[00:34:12] Tyson: I'm the problem.

[00:34:13] Alexa: You're the fucking reason. Tyson, take a vacation. God damn it.

[00:34:16] Tyson: No, but look, the biggest reason why, and this is like I'm going to go off on a tangent here is because I saved my vacation at my previous company for so long because I was planning this month-long honeymoon to Japan. Then I ended up quitting that job and all my vacation got paid out and obviously, I couldn't go to Japan because of COVID and it was just a really good life lesson, just use your vacation. Don't save it. Then I had to get it paid out and like you get tax of shit out of that in Canada.

[00:34:46] Alexa: My boyfriend used to tell like, "I'm just going to find a way to not have to take the days off, and then I'll get paid out at the end." I'm like, "Money is going to be nothing to you when you're spending it while you're disgruntled after you quit your job for not taking any fucking breaks."

[00:34:59] Tyson: Well, right, and you use the same amount of money either way. You're going to get paid that money either way. I'd rather get paid that money and not have to work than just get a big lump sum that gets like tax the crap out of.

[00:35:08] Alexa: Exactly. People got to take breaks.

[00:35:11] Tyson: Totally.

[00:35:11] Alexa: Thanks, Tyson. This has been awesome. Thank you so much for sharing your announcement with us and we're excited for you.

[00:35:17] Tyson: Absolutely. I would love to hear from other people too. If anyone wants to share their own stories or if they're just want to say anything about this because I don't know. A lot of people don't talk about it, not enough people talk about it out loud, and if anyone wants to reach out or share, feel free to do so.

[00:35:33] Alexa: Amen. This episode was executive produced by me, Alexa Baggio with audio production by Ellie Brigida of Clear Harmonies. Our intro music was also done by the wonderful Ellie Brigida of Clear Harmonies. You can find more information about us and future episodes at peopleproblemspod.com or follow us at People Problems Pod on all things social. Thanks.

[00:35:50] [END OF AUDIO]


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