For years many women in the workplace have been concerned that taking time off when having a baby could negatively affect their career. Would the perception of them at the company change? Would there be too much of an impact on the company? Well a new problem is emerging. Companies are offering paternity leave for men and they are not taking it.
First, let’s make sure we understand what paternity leave is. It is the period of time when a father stops working because he is going to have or just had a baby. It can also cover adoption. Many companies are using the term parental leave or family leave to cover mothers, fathers, or domestic partners. In the US, there is a federal law called the “Family and Medical Leave Act” that protects your job for 12 weeks after a birth or adoption. According to diversitydatakids.org, only 38% of the workforce in the US can benefit from this. The family and medical leave act doesn’t mean your employer will pay you during that time, but you do have the right to take the time off without penalty in pay or position.
Recently there has been more activity around the topic of parental or family leave. Out of 185 countries surveyed by the United Nations, the US stood out as one of only two countries that did not mandate paid maternity leave. Last week there was a senate panel hearing on the topic and many companies are changing their policies to offer more paid time off. As an example, Facebook offers 4 months of paid parental leave and American Express offers 5 months. Then you have Netflix which leads the way offering up to 1 year of paid parental leave. They basically say take as much time as you need during the first year. While every employer is different, be sure to check with yours to see what the paternity policy is.
So for those that are offered paid paternity leave, why are they not taking it? According to a recent Deloitte Survey, 57% of men felt that exercising their parental leave right would be perceived as a lack of commitment to their jobs.
In a study done by Promundo & Dove Men Care, 21% of male respondents stated they were afraid of losing their jobs if they took the full amount of paternity leave offered. Fortunately that is only perception and not reality. In a 2012 US Department of Labor brief, they discussed how important paternity leave is. They indicated it promoted parent-child bonding, improves father engagement, and even increases the gender equity at home and at the workplace. In other words, if dads are more involved from birth, not only does it help the child, but it is helping improve employment equality and pay for mothers.
Business are also finding that it can be good for the bottom line when fathers take time off and can be involved with their families. These employees are happier, more productive, and focused. Here is the bottom line: Nobody on their death bed ever said they should have spent more time at the office. If your company has a paid paternity leave policy, use it to the max. If your company doesn’t provide paid time off for paternity, see if you can use vacation days or just take some non-paid days if you can afford to do so. If neither of those are an option, then you make your best effort to spend your off time with the baby.
It’s a magical time when your child is introduced into the world. Take advantage of the time to enjoy every minute you can. They say it goes by fast and I can tell you it does.