Parental Leave for Fathers is Important for Working Families

In the U.S. paid parental leave is too rare. There is however places like San Francisco CA where the San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently voted to mandate that employers offer six weeks of paid leave for new parents at 100 percent of an employee’s salary. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill funding 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents at 50 percent of a worker’s paycheck. Although paid leave is often framed as an issue that matters most to working women, paid parental leave is also critically important for fathers.

Most new or expecting fathers wish they could be more involved at the birth or adoption of a child, however many lack the paternity leave they need to be with their family. There is unpaid leave, but many can’t afford to do that, especially with a growing family.  The U.S. is the only developed country whose government doesn’t guarantee paid leave to new parents. A recent survey of 3000 working fathers found that almost 90% of them thought it was important for employers to offer paid paternal leave. Most new dads take 1 day of leave for the arrival of a new child, less take up to a week. Lack of paid leave, potential stigma and harm to a father’s career all stand in the way of greater paternal leave.

Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave for reasons including the arrival of a new child or to care for a pregnant spouse or sick child. The leave is unpaid, though employers are required to continue healthcare coverage during a leave. Additionally, state laws may mandate paternity leave that is more inclusive than leave under the FMLA. I referenced two examples above.

There are many benefits to fathers taking paternity leave:

  • Longer paternity leaves increase father engagement and bonding with a new child. Increased engagement leads to improved health and development outcomes for children;
  • Families with fathers who take more leave also share chores and childcare more equally between mothers and father;
  • Paternity leave reduces work-family conflict for fathers; and,
  • When fathers take leave, it can increase employment and pay for mothers.

If you have questions about whether you qualify for leave under the FMLA or feel you were wrongfully denied leave or discriminated against because you took leave, contact our office.

When the work culture is supportive, fathers are more likely to take leave and to take longer leaves.