The Overlooked Issue Of Paternity Leave

Michelle Sherman, EMC Intern/Staff Writer

Paternity leave; the obstacle overlooked. Paternity leave is a subject commonly overlooked, and is split on how it should be practiced in the common era. Many worry about the issues that prevent paternity leave from occurring, while others have already reached for a solution. According to Jason Hall, a writer for Forbes magazine, there are many struggles preventing men from taking paternity leave, although not having a solution does wish for more men to utilize it. Comparatively Shelly Zalis, another writer for Forbes magazine, aspiress for equal bounds for paternal leave, and she has also developed a solution; a mandate on paternity leave for companies and maybe for the government legislation. 

Paternity leave is the period of time that a father is allowed to be away from his occupation, so that they can spend time with their new child. Although parental leave is not always available in the United States. “The United States is the only developed country among 41 nations that does not offer any paid parental leave, according to the Pew Research Center. Instead, American parents rely heavily on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows parents to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave without penalty in pay or position. However, not all employees qualify for protection under the FMLA. 

For instance, you must work at a company that has 50 or more employees to benefit. (Shelly Zalis)” Additionally, according to study of working fathers by the Center for Work and Family at Boston College, three quarters of men who don’t receive paternity leave take off work for a week or less after the birth of a child, and 16% are unable to take any days off. Paternal leave continues to be a galling issue today, especially towards men (Jason Hall). The main issues that prevent men from using or obtaining paternity leave is the common stigma or unspoken pressure from work, and the possibility of not being paid, while taking paternity leave. 

An issue that prevents men from taking paternity leave is the stigma or unspoken pressure on the job. Questions begin to circulate, on whether you are dedicated toward your work and your boss looks at you with disapproval. Many worry that taking paternity leave will prevent them from gaining beneficial opportunities at work. Joseph, a corporate accountant in Kansas City explains his apprehension on taking paternity leave, “I could have taken the whole week off after my son, Lyle, was born, but they said they really needed me, and they did, because it was the end of the fiscal year, I could tell they weren’t going to look kindly on my taking the whole week, so I didn’t. But the truth is, they could have hired a temp without taking too much of a loss, and I would have been happy to put in some extra time when I got back,” he says. 

Ultimately, he only took two days because he felt guilty and was afraid his firm would put him “on the top of the list for layoffs (Jason Hall).” Therefore many men feel as though taking paternity would leave them at odds with their employer and fellow employees. Although this may be true, if a mandatory parental leave policy was executed with companies or passed through legislation, men taking paternity leave would become more of a norm. Thus decreasing the chances of men being hesitant to take paternity leave, due to stigma or being penalized at work (Shelly Zalis). 

Another influence that impacts men from taking paternity leave, is that many companies don’t offer formal paid paternity leave. Many individuals would use vacation or borrowed time. David Coyle a security guard in Chillicothe, Ohio elucidates that as a security guard he is not offered any paternity leave. “We don’t have paternity leave or sick days or personal time at my workplace. We do get two weeks of vacation each year, which is effective on our hire anniversary date. What isn’t used, or cashed in, by the end of a year’s time is voided. It doesn’t accrue.” If other individuals have similar work regulations, like David, this would push them to not take off work to bond with their children (Jason Hill).

 If mandated paternity leave was enacted within companies and pushed by legislation, these issues would be nonexistent. For example, take Liberty Kelly, Head of Sales for the Americas at Spotify, she describes that her company provides six months of paid parental leave for all parents, with addition to that they provide one month return-to-work transition period, which can be used over the course of three years regardless of gender or how they became parents (adoptions, surrogacy, etc.). Within the six months that the policy was enacted, 90% of employees who used the benefit were men (Shelly Zalis). Henceforth based on the evidence displayed, if a mandated policy was produced within companies, it would result in a growth of men taking paternity leave, which would not only benefit the fathers, but their children as well.  

In the end of Jason Hills’ article he concedes that men deserve to have paternity leave for their children, and will most likely not regret it if they decide to take it. This can be inference from his direct quote from Ed, a marketing vice president at a clothing retailer in Harrisburg, Penn. Ed explains, “I took the maximum paternity leave allowed by California law. And to this day, I have no regrets. The time I was able to spend with my daughter was worth its weight in gold! It’s time that you don’t get back.” Ed also believes that when supervisors take paternity leave, their employees are more likely to follow suit. “People are afraid to rock the boat and it’s understandable, but that’s exactly why I give my people the encouragement to use the benefits they’re entitled to, knowing that I used it myself made them less fearful that I would hold it against them as some sort of demerit. (Josh Hill)” 

Under those circumstances we can conclude that, even with the issues that prevent men from using or obtain paternity leave, they strongly desire it. In fact the more men who see other men taking parental leave, the more it will become the norm. Paternity leave is especially impactful to the way men bond with their children. Studies have shown that fathers who take at least two weeks of paternity leave or more are likely to continue being involved in child caring activities, such as feeding and diapering (Shelly Zalis). 

As can be seen, paternity leave is desired, although there are still issues that prevent it from being normalized and accepted. As both sides clearly describe that they do wish for paternity leave, and with a possibility of a mandated policy being inducted, hopefully they convene as one. Paternity leave is something heavily needed and equally deserved, as change continues to envelop the world, maybe the change for paternity leave is upon us. 

 

Works Cited

LearnVest. “Why Men Don’t Take Paternity Leave.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 14 June 2013, www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/06/14/why-men-dont-take-paternity-leave/?sh=66cf228c1bd7.

Zalis, Shelley. “Men Should Take Parental Leave – Here’s Why.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 11 Jan. 2021, www.forbes.com/sites/shelleyzalis/2018/05/03/why-mandatory-parental-leave-is-good-for-business/?sh=3cbe458b9ded.