Globally, paid paternity leave is not only acceptable but encouraged. Though parental leave is not legally mandated in the United States as in some other countries, nine out of 10 fathers take some time off for the arrival of a child. However, 70 percent of fathers took 10 days or less, compared to 70 percent of mothers taking time off (average maternity leave is 10 weeks). In 2018, 16 percent of private sector employeeshad access to paid family leave and 88 percent had access to unpaid family leave.
While attitudes are changing, and the numbers bear out that more parents are taking time off, the lack of mandated paid family leave continues to put American workers at a disadvantage. Below is an overview of the benefits of parental leave and examples of how countries and sectors are getting it right.
The time away from work helps fathers foster attachment with their infant, an early developmental benefit that affects children’s brains throughout their lives. Paid parental leave is associated with:
- Decreased infant mortality
- Less postpartum depression
- Increased breastfeeding
- More follow-up doctor appointments
- Higher paternal involvement
Healthier children and families are the backbone of a strong society, and companies have a social obligation to support the development of the family unity through smart HR policies.
Currently only 16 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid parental leave through private-sector employers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A handful of states have prioritized leave as a law with varied results.
The best example to follow is what is offered in several European countries. Instead of giving families a bank of leave for mothers and fathers to split, fathers are given a specific allowance of leave just for themselves. The designation of parental leave for men led to more fathers taking time off over if there was an allotment of time for parents to split between them.
Businesses, especially those in the tech industry, are shifting their policies regarding paternal leave, expanding leave for mothers and adding, sometimes equally, time for fathers. This becomes a benefit not only for the employees but the company itself; nine out of 10 “highly educated professional” fathers noted that parental leave would be important to them when looking for the next opportunity. The numbers skewed even higher for Millennial men.
Parental leave, specifically paternal leave, benefits both mother and father, the new addition to the family, and ultimately the company due to happier and more balanced employees.
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