In an age where more people are calling for fair policies and equitable benefits at work, any organization that is keen on creating gender equality in their workplace should seriously consider having a strong male maternity leave policy in place. Building a culture that encourages not just mothers, but fathers as well to take leave from work has profound benefits for organizations, employees and their families, and the society as a whole. Today, about 80% of businesses have time off for fathers in their global parent leave policies. From the same report, 61% of companies have parental leave that encompasses both women and men.
Sadly, though, most new dads only have access to unpaid leave. Due to the increased expenses during this time, a very small percentage of them take it.
In this article, we will examine how parental leave came along, why giving leave to new fathers is important, and how you can implement it as an employer.
Parental, Maternal, and Paternal Leave
Though often confused, there is a clear difference between the terms paternal, maternal and parental leave. Here is a quick definition of each type of leave:
- This is time given off work that coincides with the birth of the child. This term is most often used to refer the leave that a new mother is entitled to at work. In some cases, adoptive mothers are also given maternity leave.
- This leave is given to fathers around the time that a child is born or adopted. In most cases, it is short – some days or weeks long. Statistics show that 75% of men think that leave for fathers should be flexible, i.e. not necessarily taken when the baby is born, with only 20% saying that it should be given at the time the baby is born.
- This type of leave is given to parents in the first year after a child is born – in some cases, parents may be eligible for up to three years after birth. It is an addition to the maternity leave. However, it is also given to fathers, same-sex partners, and adoptive parents.
- Though it is mostly covered in one of the three already mentioned types of leave, some companies lay it out a separate policy.
The History of Paternity and Maternity Leave in the US
Parental leave has only gained traction in recent decades. In the early 20th century and before, most women who were in the workforce were treated as temporary employees. In the US during that time, mothers usually left their jobs to take care of their newborns and sometimes they were even fired for being pregnant. In 1978, the Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination because of childbirth or pregnancy was passed.
Today, the only federal legislation that guarantees leave for new parents is the Family and Medical Leave Act also known as (FMLA). It gives 12 weeks average maternity leave USA of job-protected unpaid time off work for both mothers and fathers. However, only about 90 million Americans are covered with 41% of people not eligible for protection. In fact, the US is among the few countries that don’t require companies to give paid leave to new mothers or fathers.
Father Maternity Leave Lacks Support in Many Parts of The World
Paternity leave in the US is not mandatory. Fathers from most parts of the world find it particularly challenging to get work leave to take care of their babies as there are very few laws supporting them. A 2018 report by UNICEF found that about two-thirds of children below one year live in countries where fathers are not given paid leave. With no government protection, implementation of leave for fathers is the employers’ decision.
Why Paternity Leave Is a Win-Win for Everybody
The hesitation in allowing men to take parental leave is appalling given the many ways all involved parties benefit from these official breaks. Men, their spouses, children, and companies benefit when male staff is allowed to care for their babies in the period after they are delivered. Let’s breakdown the importance of a fraternity leave to each concerned party:
Why It Is Good for Men
Although baby-and-father bonding is not always immediate, research shows that parental leave enhances a father’s ability to care for kids in the long term. In turn, it makes him a more involved and engaged parent. Male parental leaves also impact positively on men’s relationships. A study conducted in Norway revealed that the launch of a 4-week father’s leave resulted in an 11% lower level of disputes over the division of labor in the household.
In another study conducted in Sweden, the conclusion made was that partners were 30% less likely to break-up if the male figure took two weeks or more to care for their first child. And in another study, it was revealed that higher participation in male leave was linked to lower mortality in fathers battling depression.
Why It Is Good for Women
When men take their leave, women experience a decline in post-partum depression levels. Apart from that, their overall well-being improves. For a fact, every month a father is on leave has a more significant impact on the earning of the mother when compared to maternal leave. At work, the average salaries earned by women are 7% higher each month their male partner is on leave.
Mothers often suffer from what is referred to as the “motherhood penalty.” Studies show that a mother’s hourly wages are 5% lower when compared to childless women. Moreover, mothers are 79% less likely to be screened (interviewed) and eventually hired. And if they are hired, they are likely to be offered way lower wages and be half as likely to be given a career upgrade.
With this in mind, when men are encouraged to take their leave just as the women are, they will be allowed to shoulder the same responsibility as the women. In turn, this creates a level playing field that provides an opportunity for mitigating the disproportionate motherhood penalty.
Why It Is Good for Children
Kids whose father’s take leave benefit from having their dad present in the weeks after they are delivered. Such children show better performance in school, better developmental outcomes, and enhanced cognitive scores.
Why It Is Good for Companies
Fathers who receive parental leaves are more likely to stay with their employer. Moreover, women are more likely to go back to a company if it offers paternal leave. As such, these organizations stand to benefit from retaining their exceptional talent.
Apart from that, paternal leaves allow companies to equalize the impact of both men and women in the workplace. As such, it helps such organizations to take steps towards fostering women equality.
How Employers Can Implement Paid Parental Leave for Fathers
A company should take a look at its paternity leave policy and adjust it to match the more comprehensive maternity policy. Better still, the organization can launch a mandatory parental leave policy. If a company has an existing policy that is not working, it makes sense to revise the same. Employers should also consider providing paid male leaves as men are more likely to take them given the incentive.
Companies should also make a point of helping their supervisors to understand the pros of supporting male staff leaves. They should go on to develop a culture that embraces the same by providing the necessary resources and education.
Final Word on Maternity Leave for Men
The reluctance to adopt fraternal leaves comes from the point of ignorance. Better father-and-baby bonding, women equality in the job and improved efficiency in the workplace are some of the benefits of male staff leaves. And lest we forget, it enables babies to access parental help from both parents, which significantly reduces the chances of mishaps during the nursing phase.
What’s your take on what you just read? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view or reaction here at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.