The benefit of paternity leave is more than a few weeks time off.
[This article first appeared at MARC – Men Advocating Real Change]On August 14th, National Public Radio’s popular news show, All Things Considered, dedicated a significant portion of their airtime to a discussion of paternity leave. They argued that a growing number of fathers desire, or even expect, to be given time off of work to spend with a new child. The vast majority of working fathers already do take time off, but the amount of time that they take off, and at what cost, varies widely. Chief among the various forces determining the amount of paternity leave men utilize is the support, or lack thereof, from their employers. And, while at first glance paternity leave may appear to be a burden to employers, there are numerous benefits that are certainly worth discussing.
Liza Mundy, journalist for The Atlantic, argued in her article, “Daddy Track: The Case for Paternity Leave,” that “in the long run, the true beneficiaries of paternity leave are women, and the companies and nations that benefit when women advance.” First and foremost, she argues that women will benefit from men’s increased access to, and utilization of, paternity leave.
One of the largest barriers to women’s full participation in the workforce is the stresses of child care and other care work at home. Offering paternity leave to men stands to diminish those stresses because the more paternity leave men utilize the more involved in child care they end up being down the road. Balancing the disparity between men and women’s time and energy spent on child care may go a long way in balancing the gendered inequalities in opportunity and wages in the workplace.
Society also stands to benefit from men’s utilization of paternity leave. To make this case, Mundy points to the most recent Global Gender Gap Report released by the World Economic Forum. The report indicates that the countries that are experiencing the most economic growth are those which have found ways to increase women’s participation in the workforce. Increasing men’s roles in child care not only opens up opportunities for women to return to the workforce more quickly after childbirth, but also helps to level the playing field of absence from the workplace. When fathers increase their use of paternity leave, it can translate into a reduction of sick-leave absence among mothers of 5-10%. It may be easier for workplaces to accommodate for the various absences associated with childcare when that absence is spread amongst the labor force rather than consolidated among women.
Finally, while women, and society writ large, stand to benefit from men’s increased use of paternity leave, the benefits to men shouldn’t be underestimated. Boston College’s Center for Work and Family recently released a report, “The New Dad: Take Your Leave,” in which 89% of male respondents indicated that they thought it was important for employers to provide opportunities for paid paternity leave. This belief was held most strongly by Millennials, the youngest and perhaps most desirable demographic for many employers.
Spending time with children when they are infants improves fathers’ relationships with their children as they age. And being more engaged in parenting also improves men’s relationships with their partners. As it ends up, increased paternity leave benefits everyone involved.