For parents, this is likely not new information – the United States is far behind other developed countries regarding maternity leave benefits. Yes, parents can apply to take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave but this time off is not guaranteed to come with a paycheck (read: not helpful for Americans living paycheck to paycheck).
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that a mere 16% of workers had access to any sort of paid family leave through their private employers as of March 2018. The conversation has often focused on the birth and recovery of mom (maternity leave) and leaves dad out of the picture. Employers are missing a valuable opportunity to support their staff without considering the other half of the equation: fathers.
Sweden has long been a trendsetter when it comes to parental leave. The Swedes first passed a revolutionary law in 2012 permitting fathers to take 30 days of paid leave. This benefit has expanded to six months of leave for fathers (mothers get a whopping 12 months!). Additionally, this paid time off benefit can be “shared” between parents so that fathers can use some of the mother’s time off-budget. The Swedish experience is now a live case study in the benefits resulting from paid paternal leave and U.S. employers should take note.
A 2019 study showed that fathers who took at least two weeks off during the infancy of their child reported a sustained stronger relationship almost a decade later. The relationship benefits don’t stop there; fathers who took paternity leave also enjoyed a decreased divorce rate compared to their peers for years to come. This means relationships with their significant other were stronger because of this paid time at home. And mothers reaped the rewards of their parental benefit as well. A Swedish study correlated paternity leave with a reduction in anxieties and health problems for mothers.
Data show that including fathers in the equation is more than just a flashy benefit. Better relationships and improved health are reasons enough to invest in a paternity benefit to support working fathers. But think about the message a paternity benefit also sends to employees who become parents and do not fit the standard mold. It shows acceptance that parents come in a variety of packages: birth partners, adoptive parents, LGBTQ couples, or single parents. A maternity benefit alone is not acknowledging the diversity of your employees’ family structure. Companies seeking to support employees should create a broad parental policy to support both mothers and fathers. It is high time that companies revisit their outdated maternity policies to update benefit offerings and verbiage to reflect the inclusion of fathers.
SOURCE: United Benefit Advisors (UBA)