He missed the first 9 months of his daughter's life, now this army dad wants more flexible parental leave

Zack Lloyd, a soldier from Comox Valley, B.C., believes that the government needs to go further when it comes to both giving parents time off and helping provide daycare.
Parental leave benefits for a soldier in the Canadian military is close to their full weekly rate of pay. ( John Moore/Getty Images)

Zack Lloyd, a soldier from Comox Valley, B.C., believes that the government needs to go further when it comes to giving parents time off and supporting them with daycare.

He thinks that the extension for paid parental leave from 12 months to 18 months isn't enough. He says daycare can be hard to find, and even more difficult to afford, especially after taking time off a full income job.

Lloyd is a father who says he takes as much advantage of parental leave as he can. He was deployed to Kuwait when his daughter was less than a year old. During that time he could only communicate with her through Skype.

Lloyd believes that companies need to be more flexible overall and work with their employees to make sure their staff can spend time with their children.

"Having somebody still getting up with the baby, feeding them, changing them, whatever, and then still coming into work is ridiculous," Lloyd told Checkup host Duncan McCue during Sunday's show on parental leave.

As a former small business owner himself, Lloyd argues extended leave may even be in a company's benefit. Having an employee who can be focused and awake is more valuable than someone who just had to deal with a sick child.

Zach Lloyd: So my thoughts are: I don't think it's doing enough. The government isn't doing enough. I think we should be more like Scandinavian and European countries especially when it comes to pay.

The fact that we only pay 50 per cent and the 35 per cent — I mean that is a hard hit for everybody, especially nowadays when most people are two income families.

Myself, I'm lucky I work for the military, so we get the time off at 100 per cent pay. And I've had other buddies working in other fields saying that if they had the opportunity, and they could take an 80 per cent cut or something like that, they would definitely stay home because they feel it strengthens the bond between the mother and the father and the child. And it becomes more cohesive.

And then they also want to work for that employer because that employer is flexible and understands it.

We need to be able to be more flexible with care because, myself, I wouldn't take the whole time off. I would take like four days a week or three days a week and still go into work and check up because I'm a supervisor, so I want to make sure my guys are still good to go — the men and women that work for me.

So yeah that's pretty much what it is. Maybe not take the whole chunk off of 18 [months].

Duncan McCue: So you said in the military that you were getting topped up to 100 per cent. Is that right?

ZL: Well you don't lose any pay. You get your pay and it's between the parents. Like if both parents are in the military you have to make the call. It depends. They look at what your wife does or your partner does if you're a member of the military. I mean I just have one of my guys, he went away. His wife did good for four or five months, and now he's doing three months of parental leave.

A lot of the army dads loved doing it. Like it's a lot of bonding time because we never know.- Zach Lloyd

A lot of the army dads loved doing it. Like it's a lot of bonding time because we never know. I mean when my daughter — I was in Kuwait for nine months of her first part of her life. So you know that was kind of hard. The only time I got to see her was over Skype. So I kind of wish I had more time with her. And I know my wife would too, because you're going to get less sleep deprived people showing up to work because, trust me, you know when she's 14 months old and she's screaming at two o'clock in the morning and I'm trying everything to get her back to bed. Going to work the next day at six o'clock in the morning it's not exactly fun.

Helping employees builds loyalty

ZL: I have no issues with any of the people that worked for me to say they want to take time off. I've got no issues pushing the memo or their request to give them the time off to take their time with their family because ... I don't really have the numbers offhand, but it reduces workplace accidents, if you have people well-rested. So having somebody still getting up with the baby, feeding them, changing them, whatever, and then still coming into work is ridiculous.

I know what was said earlier in the program, that some daycares don't take children until they're past 18 months. So that's really hard to then go back to work and then figure out, 'OK well now I got to get a nanny or a babysitter.' But if I can take the 18 months, or if I can split it with my partner saying, 'OK I'll take three months here. You take three months there. You take six months there. I'll take three months, and we can do that.'

I know that just to me, personally speaking, you're going to get a way better family unit. People are going to love their employer a lot more. They're going to be a little bit more loyal. They're probably going to talk to their kids and say, 'Oh yeah I work for this company for 25 years, 30 years. This is what they did for me. Maybe you should think about going into the company too,' kind of thing.

Flexibility is key

ZL: If you have an employer who's flexible and willing to cooperate, or at least negotiate with you, it's a lot better. Now I know a lot of people also say, 'Oh we'll the small businesses might take a lot of hits,' and all that stuff. I understand. I used to own a painting company before I joined the military. I get it. But at the same time sometimes I personally would take a little bit less of the commission for the overall contract just so that my people could get their proper time paid.

So, I mean, I wouldn't take so much that it would hurt me financially. But instead of taking $6,000 for the job, I would take like [$4,000] or [$5,000] and top up my employees with the rest of the things.

All comments have been edited and condensed. To listen to the full interview, click on the audio link above. This online segment was prepared by Arman Aghbali.