Not All Leave Is Created Equal: A New Father’s Struggle Obtaining Paid Paternity Leave

By: Victoria Massimino

Maternity leave is likely the first topic that comes to mind when an employee has a new baby at home.  Another area of consideration for new parents, and a growing trend, is leave for fathers.  Paternity leave refers to time off of work for new dads at the birth or adoption of a child.[1]  For the companies that do offer some type of leave, it is rarely paid.[2]  Among the U.S. states that do offer paid leave are California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.[3]  California equally offers paid family leave to of up to six weeks with partial pay.[4] In the states that do not offer paid paternity leave however, the majority of new fathers use vacation or sick time to be with their newborns.[5]

The United States falls sadly behind other countries – including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, France and Spain – when it comes to paternity leave.[6]  Iceland, for example, gives 120 days of dedicated paternity leave, while Sweden offers sixty days.[7]  Fathers in Iceland earn eighty percent of their wages while on leave.[8]  Fathers in Norway can choose either twenty-six fully paid weeks or thirty-six weeks with partial pay.[9] Finland, likewise, offers fifty-four days of dedicated paternity leave, plus 158 days for either parent.[10]  Dedicated paternity leave refers to leave that is specifically for fathers, rather than leave that is discretionary for either parent.[11]

There are many benefits to providing new families with paid paternity leave.[12]  Paid leave helps fathers better balance their work and home lives, reducing work-family conflict.[13]  Longer leave means that dads get more time to spend with their children and form bonds.[14]  When fathers are more engaged, it leads to improved health and development for children.[15]  A study of four countries even showed that longer paternity leaves and time spent by fathers caring for children at a very young age was associated with higher cognitive test scores.[16] Finally, paternity leave can help bridge the gender gap at home and in the workplace.[17] Studies show that longer paternity leaves allows for more balance in household responsibilities between mothers and fathers.[18]

While fathers continue to face hardships in gaining paid leave to begin with, they also worry about job security.[19]  Although it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee for taking leave, the effects on their career is a common concern among men who want to take paternity leave.[20]  Secretary Perez takes the opposite stance, stating “[f]athers taking parental leave helps not just children but moms, too, by changing who changes the diapers and the whole culture around work and family.”[21] A national survey demonstrates that perceptions are similarly changing, showing that both men and women find it important for employers to give workers time off for family responsibilities.[22]

[1] Paternity leave: What are the options for dads?, Baby Center (Nov. 2015), http://www.babycenter.com/0_paternity-leave-what-are-the-options-for-dads_8258.bc.

[2]  Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Andrew Lord, 8 Countries That Put U.S. Paternity Leave To Shame, The Huffington Post (June 19, 2015), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/17/best-countries-for-patern_n_7595946.html.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Paternity Leave: Why Parental Leave For Fathers Is So Important For Working Families, Dep’t of Lab., https://www.dol.gov/asp/policy-development/PaternityBrief.pdf (last visited Feb. 26, 2017).

 

[12] Lord, supra note 6.

[13] Paternity Leave: Why Parental Leave For Fathers Is So Important For Working Families, supra note 11.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Paternity Leave: What are the options for dads?, supra note 1.

[20] Id.

[21] Paternity Leave: Why Parental Leave For Fathers Is So Important For Working Families, supra note 11.

[22] Paternity Leave: What are the options for dads?, supra note 1.

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