Not Even Mark Zuckerberg Is Taking All the Parental Leave He Could

The newest Zuckerberg is coming soon, and Facebook CEO/dad-to-be Mark will be taking advantage of his company's generous parental leave policy. In an Aug. 18 Facebook post, Zuckerberg announced he'd be using his guaranteed time off in parts, one when the baby is born and another in December. Facebook offers four months of parental leave, a mind-blowing benefit given that only 13 percent of American private-sector workers have access to paid family leave.


That number rises to 28 percent within positions in management, business, and finance — still a depressing stat. Paternity leave in particular has become a lucrative offer in Silicon Valley and affiliated nonprofits like the Gates Foundation. Zuckerberg rightly points out that not only is taking parental leave beneficial for infants, it helps new mothers dealing with everything from simple overwhelm to postpartum depression.

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Taking so much time away from a demanding career for childcare is notable, but only in the United States. In Australia, new mothers get 18 weeks off work as a matter of course; same in Kazakhstan and Venezuela. South Koreans enjoy more than 16 months of maternity leave, and in Finland, parental leave can begin before birth and last until the child is 3. Meanwhile, the United States is one of the few countries in the world with no national parental leave policy, alongside New Guinea, Suriname and certain South Pacific island nations.


Even if Americans did get all that time off, though, would we take it? We already know that our work can be hazardous to our health, but fewer than half of Americans actually took all their vacation days in 2015. Most of us who do try to disconnect fail — 41 percent do office work while they're supposed to be unwinding. Companies that offer unlimited vacation don't see much improvement, whether it's through self-policing worker-exhaustion culture or management discouraging truly using access to time off.

The Harvard Business Review profiled one company that mandated vacations, to excellent effect. Productivity and worker happiness skyrocketed once employees felt secure in taking their time off. Whether Mark Zuckerberg will cash in those two further months to spend time with his growing family remains to be seen, but if you've got the chance, don't leave your vacation days on the table. Even if you don't have a new little person who needs your care and attention, it's almost certain that you do.