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More Companies Offer Paternity Leave But Few Fathers Take Full Time Off

June 14, 2013

A growing number of companies now offer paternity leave for working fathers or have bumped up their policy to offer more paid time off. Many fathers, however, are reluctant to take advantage of these benefits.

As The Wall Street Journal reported, according to a survey to be released on Father’s Day from the Society of Human Resource Management, 15 percent of U.S. firms offer some paid leave for new fathers, including big name companies such as Yahoo—which recently upped its paid leave for fathers to eight weeks—and Bank of America Corp. Various research, however, has shown that very few fathers take advantage of the time off. For instance, MarketWatch noted that a 2012 study of tenured track college professors found that just 12 percent of fathers took paid leave after a child was born, compared to 69 percent of mothers. A similar trend can be seen in the business world as well—according to The Wall Street Journal, a 2011 study of workers at four Fortune 500 companies showed that although 85 percent of new fathers took paternity leave, most only took a week or two off. Furthermore, even if fathers do take paid leave, many still work at home while with mom and newborn.

So why are fathers not taking advantage of these benefits the same way mothers do? According to The Wall Street Journal, fathers are reluctant to take time off because of both workplace and societal pressures.

“There’s still a stigma associated with men who put parenting on an equal footing with their jobs,” said Scott Coltrane, a sociologist at the University of Oregon to The Wall Street Journal. “Most employers still assume that work comes first for men, while women do all the child care.”

Indeed, LearnVest noted that some working fathers felt that their commitment to the job was questioned if they took the full time off.

“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,” explained Joseph, a corporate accountant, in LearnVest. “I could tell they weren’t going to look kindly on my taking the whole week, so I didn’t.” Joseph also admitted that he felt guilty and feared he would be one of the first to go if the company began laying people off.

However, even if an employer is supportive, some colleagues may not be. The Wall Street Journal noted that a forthcoming paper from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management found that men who embraced their parental role at home were often teased and mocked at the office by so-called traditional fathers or men who did not have any children.

Interestingly, The Wall Street Journal pointed out that this stigma was not as strong among younger fathers—when The Wall Street Journal asked its Facebook followers to chime in on the discussion, young fathers said paternity leave was important, while older working fathers said it carries a stigma in the office.

While it will still take some time to shift these perceptions, The Wall Street Journal noted that senior management and executives could help alleviate some of these concerns by taking paternity leave themselves. Ed, a marketing vice president at a clothing retailer in Harrisburg, Penn. agreed.

“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,” he said to LearnVest. “Knowing that I used it myself made them less fearful that I would hold it against them as some sort of demerit.”


Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin

Sources:

“Why Are Men Afraid to Use Paternity Leave?” learnvest.com, June 14, 2013, Jason Hall

“Why Dads Don’t Take Paternity Leave,” online.wsj.com, June 12, 2013, Lauren Weber

“Why dads pass on paid paternity leave,” marketwatch.com, May 12, 2013, Jen Wieczner

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