Maternity leave laws may soon be extended to Dads'

by on June 23, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Male Stigma and Maternity Leave Laws

Looking for a cost-effective benefit that promotes a healthy work-life balance, encourages employee loyalty and improves retention?

Consider paid paternity leave for fathers with newborn or newly adopted children: similar to existing maternity leave laws.

When California unveiled its new Family Temporary Leave program, which offers half-pay for six weeks of paternity leave, business groups predicted gloom and doom.

Even though the California program is 100% employee funded, critics claimed paternity leave would sap productivity, especially at small firms hamstrung by having to hold jobs open while new dads bond with their babies.

However, University of California researchers estimate the new law will save California employers $89 million a year in employee retention costs.

Cost-effective paid leaves

In fact, a recent study by the Families and Work Institute found broad support among employers for new paternity leave laws and strengthening maternity leave laws. In the study only about 16% of respondents felt paid paternity leave would be cost prohibitive. About 42% felt such benefits offer a positive return on investment.

The rest felt leave programs would be “cost-neutral.”

Yet only about 12% of employers offer paid paternity leave – and experts say many new dads are reluctant to take advantage even when the benefit is available to them.

Traditional attitudes about gender roles in the workplace persist: In a recent study by Wake Forest University, college students were asked to evaluate workers based on mock personnel files.

Respondents ranked men who requested paternity leave as less desirable than women exercising their rights under maternity leave laws

According to the study’s author, “Working fathers may have to choose between taking leave to care for family needs and being perceived negatively at work, or not taking care of the family needs in order to avoid undue penalties at work.”

That’s a no-win scenario where a conflicted father is easily distracted, less productive and more prone to start looking for the exits.

Remove the stigma

If you’re among the few firms offering paid paternity leave but fathers are reluctant to participate, or if you’re considering offering paid leave, here are a few things to consider doing:
· Sponsor a fatherhood class. Organizations such as the National Fatherhood Initiative ( offer workshops and educational materials for parents and nonparents aimed at eliminating the paternity-leave stigma.
· Encourage telecommuting. According to the National
Fatherhood Initiative, new dads and their employers don’t take advantage of technology designed to bridge the gap between home and work. A paternity leave needn’t mean forgetting about work entirely. Give a new dad on FMLA leave partial pay, a laptop and a pass code for conference calls. That way he can contribute to work while being there for his new baby. This will help undo the stigma of paternity leave and show everyone the company is committed to family values.
· Offer work-life benefits to everyone. If you offer paid paternity leave, don’t forget there are nonparent employees faced with elder-care issues and other demands. Flextime and paid time off may cost some money, but generally not as much as hiring and training a replacement for a stressed-out worker who left the firm in search of a job promising better work-life benefits.

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