Should Fathers Get Paternity Leave?

Should Fathers Get Paternity Leave?

I remember a movie that came out in the 80s called Mr. Mom. It was about a father who got fired from his job, and his wife found a high-paying job, so she went to work, and he stayed home. This was something that was unheard of back then, and people made fun of the dad as if he was a sissy. They treated him as if his wife was the new head of the house, and he became a househusband. Yet nowadays we are seeing this more and more as fathers want to spend more time at home with their children, especially their newborns. Mothers generally get paid paternity leave when they have a baby, but what about fathers? Should fathers get paternity leave, too?

Despite the stigma that is still attached to the idea of fathers taking off from work when a new baby is born or adopted, most people believe that fathers should get paid paternity leave just as mothers do. According to statistics for 2022, forty-five percent of companies offer paid paternity leave to fathers, but only 20% of employees have access to it. And still, yet, the average length employers allow for paternity leave is only one week. Still, proponents continue to push for paternity leave and proclaim its benefits for families, employers, and society. 

Why Should New Dads Get Paternity Leave?

News dads should be entitled to paternity leave for the following reasons:

It Will Provide for More Stability in the Home.

It seems that dads who are able and willing to take paternity leave have better relationships with their partners. This is even more accurate when both the mother and father can take leave simultaneously. With the amount of stress that comes with a new baby in the home –– such as sleepless nights, endless crying, changing diapers –– parents can learn how to navigate the changes together.

It Will Positively Impact a Child’s Growth and Development.

The child will reap the benefit of bonding, not only with the mother but also with the father, early on. Things like skin-on-skin contact that comes with holding, feeding, burping, diaper changing, and the talking and singing that usually accompanies such actions strengthen the father-child bond and provide a secure emotional environment for the child to grow. It has also been shown that this type of early-life bonding with fathers positively impacts the child’s cognitive development.

The Early Parent-Newborn Bonding Will Boost the Father’s Confidence.

The early bonding and interaction with their newborn will help build the new father’s confidence. The best way to learn something new is to jump right in and get your feet wet. The more time a dad spends with his baby, the more confident he will be in his ability to meet other challenges that develop as his child grows.

Dads Who Take Paternity Leave Tend to Be Happier When at Work.

Research has shown that men who take a more active role in caring for the family, including taking paternity leave, are more satisfied with their jobs. This can only benefit the employers, too, who will notice greater output and effort from employees who are happy with their careers and responsibilities.

It Helps Establish Parental Roles and Relationships Right From the Start.

Parenting side-by-side right from day one helps set the structure of family dynamics. Fathers have expressed that by learning together how to parent the new child, it helped them as a team discover how they wanted to raise their child and what that process would actually look like. It also helps fathers set the premise for a more equal distribution of responsibilities in the future.

According to Zippia: The career expert, paternity leave statistics for the United States doesn’t even come close to other OECD countries. OECD stands for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Related: What are the Rights of a Father to an Unborn Child?

Country Weeks of Paid Leave Pay Rate
Japan 30 67%
South Korea 15 80% (first 12 weeks) 50% (12+ weeks)
Spain 12 100%
Sweden 11 78%
Iceland 9 80%
Canada 6 55%
Mexico 1 60%
Australia 0.9 National minimum wage
UK 0.4 $200/week or 90% weekly pay, whichever is lowest
US 0 0%

Are There Any Disadvantages for Offering Paternity Leave?

Are There Any Disadvantages for Offering Paternity Leave?

The drawbacks to offering paid paternity leave fall mainly on the employer. There is a high financial cost to businesses that offer paternity leave. Not only do they have to cover the employee’s benefits while the father is away, but they also have to cover the cost of taking on a temporary employee to do the father’s job in his absence.

As well as these financial expenses, there can also be productivity costs if the father’s position is not replaced but distributed to other employees. With other workers sharing the missing employee’s workload, their own production suffers.

The third problem businesses see in relation to paid paternity leave is resentment that builds up in other workers who are not married or have children.

Is There a Stigma Toward Fathers Who Take Paternity Leave?

Many fathers do not take paternity leave because of the stigma associated with it. They feel as though if they took paid time off to bond with their new child, it can look like they are not fully committed to their job.

Though our society is changing in that it is becoming more acceptable for fathers to stay home and care for their families while mothers join the workforce, we still have a long way to go. Organizational culture hasn’t caught up with the reality of what role fathers play in society today. Fathers tend to struggle with the disparity that exists for them. The discord becomes for them, “What am I supposed to be doing?” vs. “What am I able to do?”

When Paternity Leave Is Offered at the Workplace, Why Do Fathers Not Take Advantage of It?

One reason men are not taking paternity leave if it is paid is because of the stigma noted above. Men who take paternity leave can be viewed as less committed employees. They are also afraid of missing out on opportunities that may be available to other men who are currently working.

Another reason is that even if it is paid leave, it is being capped. Men are saying that they need at least 70% of their uncapped salaries to be able to survive, and most said they need at least 90% or higher.

The problem lies in the fact that even for women, fully paid maternity leave is unavailable. The United States is one of the few countries without federal paid maternity leave. So for a married couple, if the wife needs to take unpaid maternity leave, the family would experience such financial hardship that it is not feasible for the father to do the same.

Related: Why is Family Law Important?

Is There Any Federal Legislation That Allows Fathers to Take Time off to Bond With Their Newborn?

Is There Any Federal Legislation That Allows Fathers to Take Time off to Bond With Their Newborn?

The Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave while still keeping their jobs for them when they return. The employer is also required to continue to pay their share of employee benefits. The FMLA applies to all public agencies, public, private, and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. In order for an employee to qualify, they had to have been employed by the company at least 12 months, have worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs at least 50 or more employees within 75 miles.

The problem with the FMLA is that it is unpaid. So though the father’s position in the company would be secure, he will not be able to support his family while on leave.

Ninety countries worldwide offer paid paternity leave. The United States is not one of them.

Given the many positive outcomes for allowing fathers to take paid paternity leave, many advocacy groups have formed to try to change legislation in this arena making it more favorable for fathers, and families, to be able to bond and adjust to the new additions to their families.

One such group is MenCare. MenCare is trying to get governments and employers to adopt parental leave policies that are:

  • Equal for women and men
  • Non-transferable between parents
  • Paid according to each parents’ salary
  • Adequate in length for each parent with a 16-week minimum
  • Offered with job protection
  • Encouraged and incentivized meaning that both women and men feel supported in taking leave
  • Inclusive for all workers of all kinds
  • Combined with subsidized, high-quality childhood education and care that would be available to even low-income families
  • Supportive of diverse caregivers
  • Enshrined and enforced in national law and international agreements, meaning it should be government-mandated, included with existing or new employment benefits, and internationally backed.
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