Good and Bad News about Paternity Leave

by Colette Moran

More companies are offering it, but new dads are not really using it. 

Yahoo Inc. announced in April that new fathers can take eight weeks off at full pay. Bank of America Corp. offers 12 weeks of paid leave, and Ernst & Young a few years ago bumped its leave policy from two weeks to six. Fifteen percent of U.S. firms provide some paid leave for new fathers, according to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management to be released on Father’s Day.

It sounds like progress, but in reality men are reluctant to take time off for a variety of reasons, ranging from a fear of losing status at work to lingering stereotypes about a father’s role in the family.

The overwhelming majority of the 85 percent of fathers who do take leave only stay home for one or two weeks. This despite the fact that 60 percent of fathers in double-income families feel conflicted about work vs. family responsibilities. However, there is often a stigma attached to taking longer leave and many feel pressure or resentment from coworkers.

A forthcoming paper from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management found that men who are active caregivers get teased and insulted at work more than so-called traditional fathers and men without children.

Active fathers are seen as distracted and less dedicated to their work – the same perception that harms career prospects for many working mothers, said Jennifer Berdahl, the study’s lead author, adding that such men are accused of being wimpy or henpecked by their wives.

This is truly sad in light of the fact that there are long-term benefits from parents’ taking longer leaves.

A 2007 study from researchers at Columbia University found that fathers who take longer leaves are more involved in child care months after returning to work. And a paper by a Cornell University graduate student Ankita Patnaik earlier this year examined leave-policy reforms in Quebec and found that more generous and equitable parental-leave policies led to a greater likelihood that mothers will return to their employers after maternity leave.

More here.



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