Why Paternity Leave Matters

Paternity Leave

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” ―Jim Valvano

This month, we celebrate all of the fathers who serve as positive examples for the next generation. The hard work you put into the little lives you touch – whether blood related or not – does not go unnoticed. Thank you for all you do!

As we applaud fathers for their hard work, it’s important to recognize a huge gap in our current societies acknowledgement of their contribution to family life: paternity leave. 

For those that might not know, paternity leave is allowed time off from work after the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child. 

Consider this statement from Fatherly:

“While 92 countries offer paternity leave, the United States does not. Despite popular support for family leave bills in America, only a handful of states and cities have passed family leave and paternity leave laws, and a Pew Research study from 2016 found the U.S. dead last among 41 countries for parental leave laws.”

There is hope that some of this might be changing soon -– the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act (FEPLA) has become law, which entitles some Federal employees to take 12 weeks of parental leave after welcoming a child. However, this only covers some. There are several pending legislations to address this. 

You can read more about the positives and negatives of each Act in this Forbes summary.

Why Paternity Leave Matters: At Home And In The Workplace

In the home, a father’s role is just as critical as a mother’s role, as he provides emotional and physical support to the mother, creates life-long bonds with his children, and carries many household duties so the burden isn’t all on one family member. Paternity leave frees up a father’s time to pay full attention to his changing families needs, while not putting financial strain on the family. 

Providing reasonable paternity leave also helps level the playing field between men and women in the workforce. For decades, hiring discrimination against women has run rampant due to motherhood responsibilities at home. While our society has certainly taken steps in the right direction to equalize opportunities and career advancement between men and women, there is still a long way to go to before we’ve reached true equality in the workforce.

Despite the importance of paternity leave, the lack of legal and government support to require all businesses provide this benefit means that fathers are not offered the paternity leave they deserve. 

Even more so, those fathers that are offered paternity leave are less likely to take it, due to workplace performance pressures. Many new father’s have access to leave, but feel pressured to keep working so as to not fall behind in career advancement, regardless of the field or industry. Everyone, even if you aren’t a parent, can help with this systemic problem by encouraging your colleagues to take the full leave they are eligible for.

Looking towards the future

It’s time to level the playing field in the workplace by extending the same benefits to each parent. Both men and women should be free to take full leave without hesitation to care for their growing families. 

This month, will you join me in advocating for equal maternity and paternity leave by starting the conversation in your organization? Know the facts about what is offered, be respectful, don’t be afraid to negotiate, and put everything into writing. Here is a guide from the New York Times on how to approach the conversation with your employer.