Paternity Leave

Leave from work that fathers take in order to care for a new child, either born or adopted.


Facts and data

  • Taking paternity leave advances gender equity. Most workplaces are designed to reward long, continuous stretches of office work. Since women take the vast majority of parental leave and spend more time parenting, this means mothers disrupt their careers more than fathers. If men were to take more paternity leave, career disruptions would be better shared, and this would contribute to more gender balance in professional advancement [HBR]
  • Men say they will change jobs to spend more time being fathers. 69% of fathers (and 53% of men without children) reported they would change jobs to be more involved in caring for a newborn. Male interest in fatherhood is higher with millennial men than older generations. One study in the UK shows that in 1982 43% of fathers had never changed a diaper and now this figure is closer to 3% [Warwick]. Having paternity leave policies can help with recruitment and retention of talent [HBR]
  • Whether fathers take paternity leave has a lot to do with their financial situation. Fathers with lower incomes had very real worries about how their family would survive if they took unpaid, or low-paid, time off. A study of Scottish fathers found that 78% of all fathers take some paternity leave, but among those in the bottom 20% of wealth, only 43% took time off [HBR]
  • Men often don't take paternity leave from fear of harming their career advancement. Many men fear negative repercussions if they were to take the full amount of paternity leave available to them, and a full 21% fear that they would lose their job entirely if they did so [HBR]
  • Paternity leave boosts engagement and retention, potentially being a net financial gain to companies. Employers who aren’t offering paid family leave may be choosing not to do so because they worry that it could be too expensive. Some research suggests that costs may balance out because of the boost in staff engagement and retention.  [HBR]
  • More info on the legal rights of fathers in the US taking paternity leave at this link


Champions

Well, I myself got off the partner track to have children because I'm married to a doctor and they weren't getting off theirs. I think parenting has proportionately landed on one gender and I don't think that that is biological nor required.


Hear it Firsthand

When my daughter was born, one of the things I wanted to do was take off three months and do the full leave and be a stay-at-home Dad.… I felt like this was the only time in my career I would be able to do this.… But the original reaction I actually got inside of the firm was "oh no, you can’t take three months off." (source)


A Suggestion

We need a lot more flexibility about measuring outcomes and not the hours in a job. We need to get very outcome focused and less time focused. There's a lot of parents that can do a 40 hour week in 25 hours, versus the person who might come into the office, get their coffee in the morning, and walk around the office four times. We need to get serious about helping people out with the first 10 years of a kid's life until they can stay home alone because if it's fricking hard. (from an SVP at a Fortune 500 company)


Take Action

  • Take paternity leave yourself and support others who do. Workplace culture has to be such that all parents feel that they can use their benefits without harming their career prospects. Even the best-designed policy will not have an impact if employees don't feel comfortable taking advantage of it. This may be a particular risk with paternity and caregiver leave, which are less likely than maternity leave to be widely accepted in the workplace. Set a good example by both being on the advancement track in your company and being a dedicated parent. Encourage the leadership in your company do so as well [BCG]
  • Request paternity support for yourself and other men. Many organizations have programs to support young mothers such as mentoring, back-to-work schemes, maternity replacement cover, and more. This support is typically not available to new fathers. Men need to make paternity leave plans with their boss and colleagues, attend medical and other appointments with their partners, request flexible work schedules, etc. Without this support, career disruption will continue to fall on women despite men's desire to be fathers [HBR]

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