The Benefits of Paternity Leave
In honor of Father’s Day this past weekend, I thought we could take a quick dive in to paid paternity leave. Before I start, we do have some form of job protected leave. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA or FEM-LA shout-out to The Hostile Work Environment Podcast), requires a company with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius to offer up to 12-weeks of unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a child for those who qualify (working for the company for at least 1,250 hours over a 12-month period). While it is great that we have some form of job protected leave, a lot of people and families within the U.S. can’t afford to take time off without pay.
While there is a movement within companies to start looking at paid maternity leave (as the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t offer it), most of the world is still lacking paid parental leave for new fathers. There are some states and cities that are dealing with this on the local level and instituting paid parental leave for both parents, and some companies are taking a step in that direction. With that, let’s talk about the benefits of offering paternity leave or just parental leave in general!
Short-Term Costs but Long-Term Benefits
When companies offer paid leave to employees they are showing a long-term investment in them. This can lead to a multitude of benefits that include greater job satisfaction and lower turnover. Providing leave to parents keeps them in the workforce and it helps the employee see that you care enough for them and their family, and there are studies to show that employees will show increased productivity in the workplace (win-win)!
Paid Paternity Leave Benefits Women in the Workplace
When paid paternity leave is offered and taken by fathers, it helps combat the “motherhood penalty.” According to Sady Doyle’s article on NBC News, We Can’t Fix the Pay Gap Without Addressing the Culture that Punishes Working Mothers, “At the beginning of their careers, men and women’s wages are close to equal. But when women become mothers, their wages take a dive from which they may never fully recover: Where childless women earn an average of 80 cents to a white man’s dollar, mothers on average earn only 71 cents. (Notably, women of color earn less than that and the gap between white women and women of color is rapidly increasing.)”
Additionally, paternity leave reduces work-family conflicts for fathers. According to the DOL Policy Brief on Paternity Leave, fathers are increasingly concerned about work life balance, and nearly half of men surveyed report that the demands of work interfere with family life. Paid leave makes it easier for fathers, like mothers, to better balance their responsibilities at work and at home, and this can only help children.
Benefits for the Children
There have been multiple studies that show when fathers are involved in caring for their newborn, they are more likely to be hands-on throughout their child’s life. There are also many studies that show the benefits on cognitive tests. In the DOL Policy Brief mentioned above, there was a study discussed that found evidence to suggest that the longer paternity leave and increased time that fathers spend with their young children is associated with higher cognitive test scores.
Moral of the Studies
What I guess this all boils down to is that offering paid parental leave to both parents not only allows the father to spend more time at home with their newborn, but it also helps the mother at work (and at home) and the child. There is also, of course, the benefit to the employer with little shown impact to business operations.