Paternity Leave: Why aren’t more Men taking it?

Credit: LegalZoom

Introduction

 The number of countries where paternity leave is enshrined in law has more than doubled to about 90 in the last 20 years; and globally, at least four out of every 10 organizations are thought to provide paid leave above the statutory minimum. Yet, the proportion of men who take more than a few days off work when their child is born is tiny.  Most cite fears of being discriminated against professionally, missing out on pay raises and promotions, being marginalized, or even mocked as reasons for not taking time off. Academics consider these concerns to be the effect of deeply ingrained and highly damaging stereotypes around gender – and suggest that changing this will require significant cultural shifts as well as better institutional provision of paid paternity leave.  

What is Paternity Leave?

Parental leave, or family leave, is an employee benefit available in almost all countries. The term “parental leave” may include maternity, paternity, and adoption leave; or may be used distinctively from “maternity leave” and “paternity leave” to describe separate family leaves available to either parent to care for small children. In some countries and jurisdictions, “family leave” also includes leave provided to care for ill family members. Often, the minimum benefits and eligibility requirements are stipulated by law. Unpaid parental or family leave is provided when an employer is required to hold an employee’s job while that employee is taking leave. Paid parental or family leave provides paid time off work to care for or make arrangements for the welfare of a child or dependent family member.

Internalized Stereotype

 The number of countries where paternity leave is enshrined in law has more than doubled to about 90 in the last 20 years; and globally, at least four out of every 10 organisations are thought to provide paid leave above the statutory minimum. Yet, the proportion of men who take more than a few days off work when their child is born is tiny. Most cite fears of being discriminated against professionally, missing out on pay rises and promotions, being marginalized or even mocked as reasons for not taking time off. Academics consider these concerns to be the effect of deeply ingrained and highly damaging stereotypes around gender – and suggest that changing this will require significant cultural shifts as well as better institutional provision of paid paternity leave.  

Unspoken Norms

Workplace experts are warning that the immense uncertainty created by the Covid-19 pandemic – and specifically anxiety around job security – is only likely to have exacerbated workers’ concerns about taking time off. In one survey of over 500 US fathers conducted at the end of May, about two-thirds of respondents admitted that there was an unspoken rule that men at their jobs should not take full paternity leave – and that taking as little as possible was “a badge of honour”. Ninety percent of those surveyed reported their employer offered less than 12 weeks of paternity leave, but almost two-thirds said that they planned to take less than half of that.

No Role Model

Forbes believes it’s important to have visible “fatherhood champions” at companies, across different sections and departments both to inspire fathers to take leave and also improve their knowledge of leave provisions. “Also, if managers are knowledgeable of the organization’s offering around paternity leave and shared parental leave, this will lead to parents being more aware of what their entitlements are.” Thekla Morgenroth, a research fellow also considers role models to be of paramount importance. “If other men are taking parental leave at a specific company, it shows that taking parental leave is normal and acceptable for men to do,” they explain. “These effects are likely particularly pronounced when men in leadership positions take parental leave because they can act as role models and demonstrate that you can be successful even if you take parental leave.” 

Conclusion

In the absence of this kind of comprehensive legislation, however, Banister believes that employers should reduce barriers to taking paternity leave by “normalizing employees taking leave during the first year of their child’s birth or adoption, regardless of the employees’ gender or sexual orientation”.  There are more specific considerations too, she says, such as the timing of the leave. Company-subsidized parental leave, if offered, is often restricted to the first few months – when it may suit parents better for the mother to be at home, especially if she is breastfeeding. If employers gave all parents decent pay for some time, regardless of when they take it (and in addition to a period of fully-paid paternity leave around the time of the birth), this would give parents much more flexibility. 

References

1 reply

  1. Because women already taken maternity leave and you know in today’s work environment women are more than men in all organization and therefore, poor men cannot take paternity leave.

    Ahhhhh…so sad.. 😭

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