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I am a software-engineer working in a small team of two people in a company of about 100 people. My wife and I just became parents of a little boy. Here in Germany you can use "parental leave time" (Elternzeit): you can leave your job for a limited time (unpaid) without losing your contract. After the announced time, you return to your company and get your old job back. Next to parental leave, there is "parent's money" (Elterngeld): to encourage people to take some time with the newborn, you get some money -- up to 60% of your previous salary. Elterngeld is tax-financed.

My wife earns a bit more than me, so it is more practical if I take more time off the job than her. As you can imagine, my boss might not be happy about losing 50% of the team for eight months or so.

My question is: is it a valid reason to ask for more money so that it is more profitable for me to work instead of taking parental-leave-time? I do not want to make it look like blackmailing or something.

Despite that, my team leader and I agree that I am doing a good job. I would have asked for a salary increase anyway. But maybe not as high as I am doing now. Do you know any more arguments that don't feel like blackmailing? I am ready to compromise but want to make it clear, that every euro below my expectation will result in more parental off-time.

Update I'd like to give you an update: one thing i did not tell you yet is, that i was asking to discuss a raise since january. So the first thing i made clear in the discussion with my boss was, that i have been asking to talk to him since a few weeks. Because i wanted to know how the outcome of the raise-discussion was before i could tell my company how my wife and me are planning our parental leave. So i tried to make a clean cut between these two topics. My boss did understand this issue. Fortunately, my team leader could easily confirm that my first contact about this was 'long' ago. Keeping these two topics apart, it was a good talk: we both made our points and came to a monetary solution we are all happy with. My wife and me will now take this as input when discussing how we are planning our future.

One thing that might not be clear before: it was never a question of "how high should the raise be to wipe away all parental leave". We both had a minimal and a maximal idea of our parental leave. This left three or four month in the middle of the time in question: it was not clear who stays at home. We both would be happy to stay with the baby and we both like our work. So one easy argument for this time was money. Now we know all facts, so we have to decide how we plan these few month inbetween.

Thanks for all your input! You helped me very well to argument and find a way far from blackmailing. Thanks!

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@JoeStrazzere Not directly. But parental leave is voluntarily, you don't have to take it and you don't have to take all of it. However, should you decide to take any, you are legally protected for the duration. So asking for more money in exchange for not taking parental leave would be completely legal... it's just a matter of asking diplomatically and not getting your boss upset. – nvoigt Mar 17 at 17:18
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@JoeStrazzere Yes. Being a jerk would be perfectly possible, as with any non-written agreement. You could get it all in writing, if you wanted. There would be nothing illegal about not taking parental leave, even if your decision is influenced by money. You cannot waive your right to it, but you could sign a contract saying you have to pay damages if you do take it (IANAL though). That's why I pointed out that he should be prepared to follow through on his promises in my answer. – nvoigt Mar 17 at 18:02
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@Kilisi Isn't any negotiation fundamentally somewhere on the "blackmail" spectrum? Tobias is asking to waive some legal rights that he has in exchange for money. I have a hard time seeing that as immoral. – xLeitix Mar 18 at 9:04
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@xLeitix I was asking for clarification, nothing to do with morality – Kilisi Mar 18 at 9:09
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Well, Tobias having a baby entitles him to parental leave to look after his baby, which other employees are not entitled to because they have no babies. Tobias now wants cash because he has a baby, which he has no entitlement to whatsoever, so if other employees find out, there will be hell to pay. – gnasher729 Mar 18 at 11:12
up vote 84 down vote accepted

First, talk to your wife. Whatever you do, if you do anything, you need to be able to act on anything you say. For example, if you ask for more money and you are indeed granted a raise, you have to follow through. Having your wife object after that would be career suicide or major trouble in your private life.

Parental leave is your privilege. Distributing your workload in your absence is your boss' job. You don't need to make him happy. Getting kids is normal life happening, he should be prepared for that.

Now this is opinion: If you approached me and said:

Boss, give me more money or I will go on parental leave

I would feel blackmailed. You better already have filed for it because I might actually see it as blackmail and get you fired over it. Blackmailing your company is a sure way to getting out of that company. Rather sooner than later, but if need be, even later.

Your reasons are sound, so be prepared to offer them as an explanation and let your boss draw any conclusions:

Hey boss, I have talked to my wife and we have calculated it and as she is making more than me, the most economical decision is for her to continue working and me to take care of the kid. I really like working here a lot, but it currently makes more sense that way. I will send you all the details and talk to Joe so he can take over my projects.

If this gets his thought process in motion and he is asking how much he would have to pay you so you are making more than your wife... great. If not, no harm done. You never actually blackmailed him.

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This is the exact answer I was going to write. Maybe start it out with "As you know we just had a baby boy. My wife and I planned out parental leave and since she makes more than me it is economical for me to take more leave. Here is my planned leave." I think put the details in front of him puts it front and center looks less like a play for more money. – Paparazzi Mar 17 at 17:19
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The term "career suicide" seems a bit strong here - maybe it makes you look silly but I don't think it would ruin your entire career – Chris Mar 17 at 23:28
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@Chris: What nvoigt is saying is, after OP has been granted a raise in exchange for agreeing to waive his leave, it would be career suicide to still go on leave. (It won't make him look "silly", it will make him look like an untrustworthy and conniving thief.) Therefore, he has to confirm with his wife beforehand, so he's not stuck between the choices of "career suicide" (by going on leave after taking the raise) or "major trouble in [his] private life" (by waiving his leave). – ruakh Mar 18 at 2:44
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While the second suggestion is more palatable, and logically this can be seen as giving the company a choice, I doubt they could actually take an action on the second suggestion because their only response could trivially be taken as an attempt to ask you to give up your rights. They would almost HAVE to EXPLICITLY NOT see the unspoken message in the second suggestion; any response from them would have to be very carefully phrased and managed. So unfortunately, they will likely not take any action to avoid any legal misinterpretations(?). – user1663987 Mar 18 at 19:04

Not to moralize here but jobs come and go.

Most likely you will spend a majority of your life behind a desk solving somebody else problem in exchange for a paycheck.

The first years with your baby is a period of time that swiftly passes and that you will never get back again. Trust me, once you get older you will regret not spending that time with your child.

Most likely you will also become a better worker after staying home for a bit - you are going to develop skills and experience you never even thought you needed. My personal opinion is that people with children often have means of getting shit done in the workplace due to the time constraints they experience at home.

In the end nobody lies on their deathbed wishing that they've could have worked just a little bit more.

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+1, though since the OP's issue seems to be about which parent will stay with the kid and which one will go back to work, the reasons you've provided don't really militate for one parent doing so vs. the other. You seem to be implicitly advocating a third approach: both parents staying home. – ruakh Mar 18 at 2:47
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While you make a good point, as written this does not answer the question, which is how to approach this with the boss. – sleske Mar 18 at 11:38
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@sleske: there are plenty of XY questions where what the poster asks for and what they need to hear are 2 different things. possibly this is one. – Nathan Hughes Mar 19 at 2:57

Separate the issues with your manager, this is because

my boss may not be happy

This does not mean he will not be happy. Your bosses happiness is not of huge importance here.

Arrange a meeting with your boss to discuss your salary and suitability for a raise. Don't adjust your parental leave plans until you have your raise in place.

If you get your raise, adjust your parental leave plans accordingly. If you don't get your raise, take your parental leave.

Hopefully your boss/team leader will have known about your child for a while and so should have planned workload in your absence accordingly.

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If you make an argument that people who don't use their parental leave should earn more, then what you are saying is in fact people who use their parental leave should earn less.

Anyone who is hoping to have children or grandchildren (and that might include your boss!) should oppose this idea.

There are also two other things:

  • the leave takes 8 months, but the raise will probably be paid longer. In two years or so it might be strange to pay someone more money just because they didn't take a parental leave years ago.
  • You might take the money and stay today and in two years time, when you have another baby, you might take the time off, enjoying 60% of a higher salary and leaving your boss in exactly the same situation she wanted to avoid.
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You shouldn't.

Legal (IANAL)

Apart from blackmailing, which was covered in other answers already, if your boss did decide to give you a raise, it will have to adapt your contract. But your right to take a parental leave (up to the 3 first years of the child) is a legal right that cannot be taken away (and for good reasons). So it cannot be entered in your contract that you get a raise in exchange for giving up your right.

So nothing could prevent you from negociating that, get a raise, and yet still leave on parental leave. Except maybe the assurance of being fired as you come back.

Moral

So if I understand correctly, you want your boss to give your a raise so that you can pressure your wife to stay at home in your place? do you really want to do that?

Alternatives for your specific problem

The parental leave in Germany is a right, but it's no obligation. Well the mother will probably stay at home for 16 weeks minimum, but then no one has to. There are some solutions to take care of your child when both of you work. Some Tagesmutter will take young babies. So do some Kinderkrippe (usually private). Another one would be to share. You don't have to stop entirely. You could be working part time (up to 30 hours a week). So you don't have to leave your work entirely, and daycare would be reduced, or your wife can take over the hours you are at work.

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Further to the legal part, if the company did give a raise, they could be considered to be trying to deny the employee's right to parental leave, and could be in for both legal trouble and social media shitstorms. – Bent Mar 18 at 11:35

If I were your boss, I'd refuse to give you extra money for not taking your leave. There's no way for him to force you to keep working once you'd get a raise, so your boss would still have to prepare the backup plan in case you take your leave anyway. And if the backup plan still has to be prepared, what exactly would your boss be paying for?

My point is, you can always go and ask (being diplomatic about it), but don't put too much faith in the outcome.

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