I have the offer to join a new company soon and they have a demanding project in the pipeline where I would have to work for at least a couple of years without any break apart from the legally granted holidays (as explained in the interview). But I and my wife are planning a second child and we have agreed among ourselves that I would take at least 2 months of parental leave.

I am considering hiding this personal plan away from my future employer and signing the contract. There's legally nothing wrong in it as they cannot terminate me for this reason. But is it unethical?

  • Something might be unethical from one person's perspective and be perfectly OK by someone else. IMHO this is a grey enough are that we will only get polling answers.
    – MrFox
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 20:18
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    @MrFox - I disagree. Professional ethics questions almost certainly belong here, and can get good answers, provided people can back them up with solid reasoning.
    – panoptical
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 20:21
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    For me, this is one of those "If you're making the effort to ask if it's unethical, you already know the answer -- you just want someone to give you an excuse."
    – keshlam
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 22:34
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    If you don't look out for your own best interests then who will? Ethics is a two way street. It's definitely unethical to demand working for 2 years without the ability to take a break if and when you feel like it. Don't get caught out being the only reasonable person in town.
    – Sam
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 0:38
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    What happens if you get sick during this project? What about taking the paid time off/vacation that you're granted by the company? You may be misinterpreting this "demanding" project and a lack of breaks - working people in the way you describe is a perfect recipe for burnout, reduced quality of work, and employees fleeing. See also: Death March
    – alroc
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 2:35

2 Answers 2


Ethics is always a touchy matter since different schools of thought are likely to arrive at different conclusions. Legally, if you are in a country that permits you to take two months of paternity leave, it is virtually certain that you are well within your legal rights to withold a desire to do so (particularly one which may or may not come to fruition) from a potential employer.

Practically, however, I would question the wisdom of your course of action. Off the bat, your employer seems to be telling you that its concept of work-life balance is at odds with the sort of balance you appear to want in your life. That sort of conflict is likely to appear throughout your tenure at this employer, not just if and when a second child arrives. What happens if you decide to take a day off to deal with a sick kid or you want to take a couple of hours off during the day to go to a prenatal appointment with your wife?

Your potential employer is also signalling that its approach to project management judges it reasonable from the outset to basically eliminate all slack in the timeline, including slack for things like vacation time, in a project with an implementation phase that stretches for two years. That is a pretty poor approach to project management that virtually guarantees that there will be more unrealistic assumptions and requests going forward. What happens if the scope grows or some component takes longer than they're expecting and they ask everyone to "pitch in" and work extra hours every week? If you take two months of paternity leave, are you going to find yourself blamed (rightly or wrongly) for any and all delays or failings in the project?

Even if you successfully navigate the legal and political minefield, after you devote yourself to a project that is already under severe schedule pressure for two long years, is it likely that the company is going to conclude that user18600 is a top notch employee that went above and beyond and reward you with a promotion? Or is it more likely that the company is going to conclude that user18600 doesn't fit in with the culture of the company, abandoned the team for two months, and only narrowly averted disaster? Given the signals the company is putting out, it seems highly likely that you'll have constant work-life conflicts and that the project is going to be a death march until it is either cancelled or limps across the finish line over budget, past deadline, and with less functionality that the users currently expect.

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    thanks. I am in a country where I can take time off as a young parent without getting fired. So no company can set this as a precondition. Nevertheless when they interview a candidate who is married, my age and has 1 child they often hint these kind of things. My wife was saying that if a woman in her 30s is fully honest about pregnancy plans in the interview, she may never get a job
    – user18600
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 21:09
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    @user18600 - As I say, legally, you're almost certainly in the clear. But if the employer seems actively opposed to the sort of work-life balance that you want, I'd seriously question whether it's the right position for you. The company may not be able to fire you but they certainly don't have to promote you or recognize your hard work if you don't fit in. Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 21:12
  • Justin's got a good point here about the culture of the company. I just spent 6 months at a similar high-pressure, overbooked schedule company, and it's not the type of company many people want to work at the rest of their lives. Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 21:13
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    @user18600 when they interview a candidate who is married, my age and has 1 child How do they know your marital status etc. that early? It doesn't sound like any of their business to me. Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 23:21
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    Also, while they may not be able to fire you for taking Paternity leave, that doesn't mean that, after seeing you take actions that put your personal life above your work life when they expect the reverse, they wont find something else to get rid of you.
    – Doc
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 0:33

By hiding this personal plan away from my future employer and signing the contract - legally nothing wrong in it as they cannot termonate me for this reason, but is it unethical?

The fact that you intend to hide this information means that it wouldn't fit my personal ethics. Your mileage may vary.

You know that there are tight schedules, the company made it clear that this is a project requirement, and you know that you intend an action that will cause a conflict, but you are choosing to intentionally ignore that. That's not something my personal ethics would allow me to do.

You may legally be within your rights to do this (although I'm not a lawyer, so I cannot advise if this sort of contractual deception is actually legal or not). In many countries it is not legal to ask if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, yet it is perfectly legal for a potential employer to ask "Is there any reason you won't be able to fulfill the requirements of the job?" And in many countries, lying on a job application is grounds for dismissal. Perhaps it will be different in your case.

So it may not be illegal. Or you may not be caught. But it's also possible that your professional reputation will suffer because of your plan.

It's also possible that the company will look for other non-parental-leave reasons to dismiss you. Proceed with caution.

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    +1 for the warning that they may look for non-parental-leave reasons to dismiss you after you take these actions. I also agree with Joe's perspective that intentionally deceiving your employer goes against my personal code.
    – Doc
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 0:36

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