Paid Paternity Leave for Dads: Why Are Americans Lagging, And What Can We Do?

father feeds newborn baby

French dads get 28 weeks.

German dads get 52.

Swedish dads get 61.

American dads?

When new baby arrives, dads in the US typically get just one to two weeks of paid leave for taking care of the kids.

Not all companies are shortchanging new dads when it comes to paid leave. Yahoo gives new dads eight weeks off with full pay, while Bank of America gives twelve.

Also, a handful of states – including California, Washington and New Jersey – currently offer paid-leave programs for up to six weeks, so new dads can spend time with a new baby.  However, this rate of pay may not match what they make while on the job and there is a maximum payoff that might be much lower than the dad’s salary, which can be a problem for many new families.

And then there is the Family Medical Leave Act, which does allow, by law, a job-guaranteed unpaid leave for spouses and partners of women who have given birth for up to twelve weeks; but according to the 2012 National Study of Employers conducted by Families and Work Institute, women on maternity leave (58%) are much more likely to get paid leave than men on paternity leave (14%). And only large companies really have to comply with this law anyway, so many new fathers might not even qualify.

So while papa might be able to take some time off and be guaranteed to have the same job upon his return, that leave might mean no pay for a long period of time; and can most new families really afford this?

Which brings us to this question:

Why are we so far behind in paternity laws for new dads? And what can we do to make it better for our new fathers?

According to Jerry Cammarata, an advocate for better family leave policies and the first father to be granted paternity leave in the New York City school system, first we need to work on FMLA to offer paid leaves as part of the policy. (Read his interview here on Huffington Post). We also need to approach our states and demand they give our fathers paid leave options so they can stay at home when baby is born, without the threat of a job loss or demotion.

Of course, he says, we also need to change the way many Americans feel about ‘living to work’, and – I would argue – the way some Americans view dads who step back from the office to spend more time with kids.

{ MORE: Dad/Partner Checklist }

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I believe the times ARE changing in these regards; just maybe a bit too slowly. More women are becoming the breadwinners of the family (a whopping 40%) and more fathers are staying at home and raising the kids. Dads who do work are taking time off for soccer matches and dance recitals, without guilt (as it should be). More families understand the importance of both parents taking an active role in parenting. And, I feel, with time the laws will change to reflect this.

So what can we do in the meantime to make this change go more quickly? Become an active participant in the process. If you live in a state that doesn’t offer any type of paid paternity leave, get vocal. Contact your state representatives. Write letters. Join Working Mother Magazine by signing their online petition to make paternity leave available to U.S. Workers by 2015, which is the 30th anniversary of their 100 Best Companies survey.

How about your family? Does the new father in your home get any type of paid paternity leave? If he did, would/did he take the full time? If he didn’t, how did you work around this? Was he able to stay at home for any period of time after baby’s birth? 

What do you think?

Paid Paternity Leave for Dads: Why Are Americans Lagging, And What Can We Do?

Kathy Murdock works as a full time writer and web designer. Recently planted in the middle of the deep south from the busy streets of Los Angeles, when she's not coding Wordpress websites or writing about women in business and thrifty motherhood, Kathy spends time photographing alligators, playing with her family, and running. ... More

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2 comments

  1. pregnantmama says:

    My husband works for a company with more than 50 employers and can you believe the employer threaten to fire him if he did not show up. I advised my husband to report them to the labor board because this company was in violation of his fmla rights. But he didnt do it. Instead, he went to work, took the following day off and his employer contacted him and threaten to fire him again. He was forced to go to work that weekend. Finally monday arrived and he was able to get in contact with the head person in charge of human resources and she granted him his FMLA in which he was entitled to.

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