Men Want Paid Paternity Leave—and Employers Should, Too | FlexJobs
Learn the latest stats on paid paternity leave, how many men want fair paternity policies, & which companies offer great paternity leave.
Men Want Paid Paternity Leave—and Employers Should, Too
The addition of a new child is a life-changing event. And the weeks and months after a new family member arrives are tumultuous, chaotic, and full of diapers—not to mention tiring. But diapers and childcare aren’t free, and laundry doesn’t do itself. The reality is that whether new or seasoned, parents often face the dilemma of how to work and keep the household going when there’s a new baby in the house.
No matter the family situation, men often find themselves faced with a choice between working or staying home during the first few months a new baby is home. However, many men don’t want to choose. They want their employer’s support so they can be good dads and good employees without having to sacrifice one for the other.
What Is Paternity Leave?
Paternity leave is the time a father takes off from work due to the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a new child. In some workplaces, paternity and maternity policies differ. In others, both maternity and paternity leave are treated the same under a blanket “parental leave policy.”
The United States is one of the only countries that does not mandate paid leave for new parents. However, in the U.S., companies with more than 50 employees must allow new parents up to 12 weeks off from work under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). There are various criteria to determine your FMLA eligibility, but if you are eligible, your FMLA leave can be unpaid.
That said, in companies with separate paternity and maternity leave policies, men and other non-birth parents can be treated differently from pregnant women. When a woman gives birth, some companies allow her to use six weeks of disability insurance to receive some income during her leave. A father may not be able to access disability insurance to make up for lost pay. New parents can sometimes use a combination of sick and vacation time to make up for lost pay, but this is not guaranteed.
A Patchwork of Requirements
Some states require employers to go above and beyond the FMLA rules and offer paid leave. For example, California requires companies to allow new dads to take up to six weeks off and pay them 55% of their wages.
Other states are following suit. New Jersey requires employers to pay up to 60% of wages during paternity leave, as does Rhode Island. By 2022, New York employers will have to pay new parents up to 67% of their wages. And in Washington, DC, parents on paid leave can get as much as 90% of their wages.
Why Paid Paternity Leave Is Important
Offering paternity leave is important not just for families but also for employers. A 2019 study found that letting fathers take two or more weeks of paternity leave helps improve family relationships for years. Fathers who take paid leave report feeling closer to and having better relationships with their children. And, another study found that men who take paternity leave are less likely to divorce their partners than men who are unable to take paternity leave.
It’s not just fathers that benefit from paternity leave. New mothers benefit, too. A different 2019 study from Sweden found that women whose partners take paternity leave have fewer physical and mental postpartum complications.
Companies also benefit from paternity leave policies. One study in Scotland found that fathers who felt supported by their employers (with flexible work or paid leave, for example) were more likely to not only stay with their employers longer, but those employees also remain more engaged with their jobs.
In California, 83% of employees who took advantage of their paid leave were more likely to continue working for that employer. And, more importantly, 87% of businesses also reported that they did not experience an increased cost because of the paid leave requirement. Additionally, 9% of employers reported that they experienced cost savings, thanks to reduced employee turnover.
Who Is Leading the Way
Fortunately, some companies have recognized and embraced the need for paid paternity leave:
While there have been notable advances in the number of companies offering paternity leave, the reality is that as of 2018, only 16% of private employees had access to paid parental leave, and 88% had access to unpaid family leave. During the same time frame, the average amount of paid time off for parents was approximately six weeks.
However, a 2019 survey by Paid Leave for the United States (PL+US) found that men want paid paternity leave. The men surveyed said:
Will Men Use Paternity Leave?
While some high-profile fathers have taken extended paternity leave (Mark Zuckerberg, Alexis Ohanian, Prince Harry), most men in America with access to parental leave do not take advantage of it.
The PL+US survey also found that only about half (51%) of respondents believed their employer supports them taking paternity leave. And, another 41% felt that men who take time off to help with family care are looked at more negatively than men who don’t. Almost 29% of the men surveyed said they were hesitant to take time off for a new baby because they felt it would harm their career.
How Policy Plays a Role
Part of the reason these beliefs persist may be due to the way family leave policies are created. Critics point out that the language in many policies tilt childcare responsibilities toward women and away from men. For example, in companies without paid leave, women who give birth can use disability benefits to pay for part of the unpaid time off, but new fathers cannot.
Sometimes, stereotypes shape these policies. For example, the belief that women are better suited to deal with caregiving activities than men persists, just as much as the belief that men should be “the breadwinner.” These attitudes may shape policies that make it financially advantageous for men to skip taking paternity leave.
Times Are Changing
Some men, though, are fighting for their rights. In 2018, Estée Lauder paid $1.1 million to settle a discrimination lawsuit that new fathers were paid less during their paid leave than new mothers.
And, in 2019, JPMorgan Chase settled a paternity leave lawsuit for $5 million. In that case, the company allowed primary caregivers to take 16 weeks off. However, only mothers were considered primary caregivers, not fathers, which meant they could not take the full 16 weeks.
What Comes Next?
As the times change, so do attitudes. In 2014, Mets player Daniel Murphy was criticized for taking paternity leave after the birth of his son. However, in 2018, Dwayne Wade took time off after the birth of his fourth child and received support and praise.
Even when a company can’t offer paid paternity leave, they can do more to support new parents of all stripes. Flexible hours, alternative schedules, and remote work can do wonders for new parents, helping them keep their jobs and raise their children. At FlexJobs, we’ve got job postings that offer these arrangements (and more).
Learn more about FlexJobs or join today and find a job that supports you and your family.
This content was originally published here.