For whatever reason, the United States lags well behind most of the developed world when it comes to granting new parents paid time off. Only 12 percent of U.S. workers receive paid leave through their employers.
The issue was brought to the forefront when President Obama mentioned it during his State of the Union Address.
“We’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers,” the President said.
While the President only specifically mentioned maternity leave, the U.S. is even worse off when it comes to giving new dads time off. California, New Jersey and Rhode Island are the only states that have paid family leave programs.
Even when companies do offer employees paternity leave, studies have shown taking time off can have long-term negative effects on a man’s career such as lower pay or being passed over for promotions.
The negative stigma of a father taking time off from work for the birth of his child played out on the national stage last year when New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy was lambasted for missing Opening Day for the birth of his son.
Here are three reasons why offering more paid paternity leave – and changing perceptions about men who use that time off – would be beneficial to dads, moms and the businesses they work for.
Paid paternity leave results in more involved fathers.
According to a study by Rutgers University associate professor Lenna Nepomnyaschy that analyzed 100,000 children in the U.S., fathers who took two or more weeks of paternity leave were more likely to continue doing tasks like diapering, feeding, dressing and bathing later on in the child’s development.
This is important for a number of reasons. First, it gives the father a greater role in the child’s early development, which will have a lasting effect.
Dads that are able to spend more time with their kids report having more confidence as parents. Granting men paternity leave and enabling them to take it results in more competent and committed fathers who remain involved in their children’s lives as they grow older.
It is also significant in determining the household’s division of labor. Moms take time off work after childbirth to recover physically, and during that time they often naturally become the primary caregiver. That role continues as the child ages, which makes it appear that women are naturally more suited to parenting and child care. That’s a stereotype that can be harmful to both sexes.
Paid paternity leave can help moms continue advancing in their careers.
A recent paper published examining Quebec’s family leave program showed that before the program went into effect, household duties were split along gender lines with women handling most of the household duties and men doing more paid work in the office.
After the program was implemented, fathers eligible for the leave increased the time they spent on household chores by 23 percent. Mothers were more likely to be fully employed, work more hours and saw a more-than 25-percent increase in income.
A similar study of Sweden’s paid family leave program found that mothers’ incomes rose seven percent for every month of leave her husband took.
Having a child can unfortunately be a huge roadblock to a woman’s career. A quarter of women who have to take leave end up either quitting their job or are let go.
And of those mothers who get partial or no pay when they take leave, a third end up borrowing money, dipping into their savings, delaying paying bills or go on government assistance. On the other hand, women who receive paid leave are much more likely to see their wages increase upon returning to work.
With men being afforded more time to help with early childrearing, mothers can remain focused on their own careers.
Paid paternity leave results in more profitable business.
Although there are short-term costs for employers to cover employees taking leave, a look at businesses in states with paid paternity leave shows that it is probably a profitable investment in the long-term.
Two economists conducted surveys of 253 firms in California and discovered that 91 percent of firms said paid family leave had a positive or neutral effect on profitability and employee performance and 89 percent said the same of productivity.
It also helped increase employee retention as the retention rate in lower-skilled jobs increased to 83 percent for those who took leave compared to 74 percent of those who didn’t. Avoiding that turnover is estimated to save employers $89 million.
Paid paternity leave can also be a huge recruiting tool for businesses. The Center for Work & Family surveyed 1,029 fathers from 30 of its partner companies. Nearly 90 percent said that when considering a new job while also considering having another child, it would be important for an employer to provide paid leave and 60 percent said it is extremely or very important.
The fact is, increasing the amount of paid time off granted for parents would likely lead to healthier families and more profitable businesses.