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Management: Taking Or Leaving Paternity Leave
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Management: Taking Or Leaving Paternity Leave - Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Taking Or Leaving Paternity Leave

Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Taking Or Leaving Paternity Leave

In the United States, new parents are entitled under the Family Medical Leave Act to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave if they work for public agencies or for companies with at least 50 employees, if they also have been employed for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months. Additionally, many companies offer some form of paid leave to both mothers and fathers, and a handful of states mandate leave benefits that exceed those provided by the FMLA.

According to a recent New York Times article, research indicates that fathers who take time away from work are more likely to feel connected to their children early, and they are more likely to be directly involved in their children's rearing later. The more time a father takes off from work in order to participate in their children's first days, the greater this effect. Their wives tend to earn higher pay in their jobs, and their chidren are healthier.

Yet the same article says that offering paternity leave and convincing new fathers to take it are two different issues. Some men report perceived pressure from others not to take more than a week, and some say they're worried about losing status within their companies for missing the work. In fact, there is some validity to these fears, as men who take paternity leave are receive lower scores on evaluations and are less likely to earn promotions.

In some nations where paid paternity leave is offered by law, fathers are more likely to take it, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review, not only because the law exists, but because of the "snowball effect," where people are more likely to participate because their peers are doing likewise. This effect is heightened when employees see their managers making use of the benefit as well, where "the estimated peer effect is over two and a half times larger if the peer father is predicted to be a manager in the firm as opposed to a regular coworker."

Healthier children, wealthier families, and more involved fathers seem like the kinds of far-reaching effects every employer would value for the well-being of the company as well as for society. Whether or not U.S. law should require paid leave for mothers and fathers is outside the scope of this article (it might be noted, however, that the U.S. is one of only four countries that does not mandate paid maternity leave, the others being Swaziland, Liberia, and Papua New Guinea), but if your company offers it, does your company want employees to take it?

This question points to the larger issue of whether benefits are offered for employees' sake or for the company's sake, also a question that lies outside the reach of this article. Unclaimed benefits often (though not always, as with health insurance) mean less immediate expense for the company, but could cost more in the long haul, as when good employees burn out too quickly. When new fathers in your employ take some paid time away from work for the purpose of nurturing their children, are there long-term benefits to the company? And what are long-term implications for companies whose new fathers don't?

If yours is a company that wants its employees to take leave for newborn (or newly adopted) children, consider getting involved in helping to shift the office climate so that such time away from work is not only permitted but encouraged. Encourage managers to take family leave, and reassure your employees that there will be not negative professional backlash against them if they do as well. Healthier families make for happier employees.

Reference Links:
The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/09/upshot/paternity-leave-the-rewards-and-the-remaining-stigma.html
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2014/07/brave-men-take-paternity-leave


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Management: Taking Or Leaving Paternity Leave - Executive Leadership Articles

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