The Case for Paid Paternity Leave

In this blog post you can read all about the case of paid paternity leave.

Unfortunately, the US doesn’t offer much of a paid paternity leave program, along with other industrialized nations. This is a problem in today’s world, where women are 47 percent of the workforce, and forty percent of these women are the primary source of income in their family. Research has shown that there are economic and health benefits that come from parents that are able to take a leave after the new baby is born or adopted.

The problem is, most of the parents don’t have the means to take off or work because they can’t afford to take a leave that is not paid for (which is offered under the act of FMLA) or they just don’t qualify for maternity leave at all. Women are returning to work way too soon after they have a baby, and some as early as 6 weeks.

Parental Leave in the US

It appears that in today’s economy in the US, only five states are offering this: New York, California, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. They give out four to six weeks of partial pay. Now things appear to be changing with a newer generation of workers that are demanding a balance of work and life. This issue is rapidly becoming an intensely political topic during the presidential race.

In Washington, lawmakers are thinking about a bill that can offer up to sixteen weeks of paid leave to employees in the D.C. area. In addition, companies like Facebook, Nestle, Spotify, and Netflix are now expanding their policies about family leave along with more companies. During the ’90s, the era of daycare in the workplace and nurseries in gyms were a hit for many parents.

The sad thing is that not a lot has really changed for most American workers in the way of paternity or maternity leave. This is unless you live in the five states mentioned which are New York, New Hampshire, Washington D.C. New Jersey, California or Rhode Island or work at one of the few companies that offer these great incentives for maternity and paternity leave policies. Other than that, expect the fact that paid American workers have little or no paid paternity benefits.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), passed in 1993, offers employees that are eligible job protection leave for up to twelve weeks but it is all unpaid. This law when it was passed was a step in the right direction for the majority of parents that are working.  On the downside, this law did not recognize most of the population who don’t really qualify for FMLA or who can’t afford to take off without pay.

What Rights do Fathers have for Paid Paternity Leave in the U.K.?

The question is how long and how much paternity leave are dads entitled to? If you are working as a new dad, you are entitled to either one or two weeks of paternity leave. This is the same even in the case of multiple births.

In order to qualify, you must have a contract of employment and have been working for the same employer for 26 weeks. This means that by the end of the 15th week before the week your child is due. It’s the father’s choice to either take one or two weeks of paternity leave and when a father does, it must begin:

  • The day your baby is born
  • A number of days or weeks after your baby is born
  • A specific date after the first day of the week when your child is due.

Father’s that have more than one year of service can also take extra parental leave to have more time off, but this will not be paid time off. Therefore, all dads get up to 2 weeks of paid, and the rest is unpaid.

What Kind of Pay is in It for Dad?

If your employer is generous, dads will get 148.68 British pounds a week in the tax year of 2019/2020. This means 90% of their average earnings or whatever is lower. Any amount of money you get will be paid to you the same way as your wages.

Self-employed fathers don’t get to claim any pay at all. If you want to take off in the U.K., fathers have to plan ahead and save their money.

Parental Leave: Is this a Case of Government Action

Paid parental leave gives workers monetary compensation during temporary leaves after the birth or adoption of a child. Everyone knows that private companies often provide paid leave and the federal government allows 12 weeks of job protection that is unpaid.  Recently, policymakers are not satisfied with this policy.

The argument from the government is that the private market won’t or can’t provide sufficient paid leave.  On the contrary, advocates feel that if the government supported the leave, this would improve labor market outcomes and reduce the inequality of gender in the labor markets.

There really is no clear research done on paid paternity leave unless father’s fall under the FMLA and are labeled as taking maternity leave. This is what the research seems to be saying in the United States. The nation stereotypes the mothers to stay home as the caregivers and the fathers to go to work and provide.

There are many nations that are far more advanced with paternity leave than the United States and those countries are in Scandinavia, where parents in some countries are provided up to a year of paid leave for their newborn children. The government has to work on clarifying what paternity leave really is and does this fall under maternity leave? Or is there another way a father can be identified and given the same rights?

So what are the Real Laws Concerning Paid Paternity Leave?

Family leave varies in the United States in every region and city. It’s not easy for new fathers when it comes to paternity leave. While a whopping ninety-two countries offer paternity leave, the US doesn’t. In 2016, research found the United States was last among the forty-one countries for family leave laws. This lack of paternity and maternity leave can hurt families and our whole society.

A Father’s Guide to Paternity Leave

In reality, working fathers are not supported in the way they should be. Even though the United States still has many laws for paid family leave and parental leave.

Federal and State Policy Leave Laws

There are now 5 states that are currently paying parents for parental leave. They are New York, New Jersey, California, Washington, and New Hampshire. These states have laws that require employers to offer their employees paid leave. Washington already passed one law, and it goes into effect in 2020. American fathers will get paid time off if their employees offer it.

The only federal protection for dads comes from the courtesy of 1993’s FMLA. The problem is people have to have worked 1,240 hours over a twelve-month period and in a company that only employs over 50 people. This leaves so many workers that are only working part-time and also self-employed workers out of the program, so only about sixty percent of the workers can leave under the FMLA.

FMLA doesn’t say employers need to pay people while they are at home with their newborn, so if one wants to take this leave, they still can’t afford to be unpaid and stay home.

Which Companies can Offer Paternity Leave?

There are now a great number of companies that offer paid paternity leave to their employees. Walmart once had a bad reputation for exploiting its workers and is now offering maternity and paternity leave for their employees. Other companies are viewing the case of paternity leave as a huge benefit for it’s valued employees.

In 2015, Netflix let working fathers take their leave so they can be there for their child in the first year of their lives. What’s important is that the time they were offering was not limited.

Still, there are not enough companies like Netflix. They are just the exception from the rule. A research done in 2016 shows that forty-one percent of the American workforce have employers that offer paid paternity leave to their employees and only 9 percent of them work for these companies that offer paid paternity leave for all workers.

This is one of the main perks companies use in order to retain employees who have the needed skills. If you are a low income working American, whose skills are limited, paid family leave is few and far between.

There are also a lot of corporations in the United States that have progressive leave. These companies are still supported and there are advocates for others that help these places to upgrade their workplace and to offer more support to parents. The problem is ninety-five percent of workers with low wages in the United States still don’t have the choice to take paid leave when a child is born.

In order for a paid leave to happen for everyone, the government has to be more involved.  Republicans and Democrats both agree that the government has to formulate a plan for paid leave, and right now this is being debated considerably by the government, and it’s the type of form that paid leave is being debated about. When Trump was campaigning, he supported parental leave as a potential candidate and again in his first State of the Union address when he was elected President.

His daughter and the Florida Senator have proposed a plan that allows parents to take from their own security funds to pay for their own leave. Critics aren’t too happy about this proposal and say that this takes away the retirement savings from the people more than it is helpful.

Other Lawmakers have spent many years trying to devise a bill for a paid leave that would use the funds of a small employer and employee payroll contributions. Since there is no solution yet from the federal government, this burden of paid paternity leave has been reversed back to each state.

State Laws

In 2002, California passed its first paid parental leave law in America that started in 2004, and new parents got fifty-five percent of their wages for up to 6 weeks. By 2018, the number increased to seventy percent and it is expected to rise even more by 2021 as the expenses grow. In New Jersey, the benefits started being paid in 2009 even though the law started a year before. This new program in New Jersey allowed new parents to receive almost 2/3 of the wages for up to 6 weeks of parental leave.

Rhode Island did something similar and called it a “temporary caregiver insurance” law that was passed in 2013, and started in January the year after.  Rhode Island’s law covers 4 weeks of wages at sixty percent of the employee’s normal wages.

New York entered the game late for the paid leave act, however, this one is called the best of all paid leave acts in the US.  Parents can take 8 weeks after a new child arrives and this year they receive fifty percent of their earnings. The weekly payment rises every year and it is expected to be a whopping sixty-seven percent of their normal wages in around three years. Washington passed a bill that is similar and parents that take up the leave can get as much as ninety percent of their normal salary.

Legislators in Washington State also passed a paid leave act in 2007, the law was not going anywhere for about ten years until lawmakers couldn’t make an agreement on the funding of the program. A newer bill that finally has a funding portal passed in 2018. This law will start one year from now.

City governments in Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio have passed paid family leave bills for the city employees. Now a paid parental bill for the federal employees is stuck on the pile since 2009 in Congress. In 2015, President Obama had an executive memo allowing the federal employees to use 6 weeks of leave to look after their newborn children.

Additional paid leaves are considered by State legislators in Connecticut, Oregon, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Colorado. All bets are placed on Massachusetts as the next state bill to pass concerning paid parental leave.

The states are funding family leave in a variety of ways. In most cases, employers pay a fee that goes into what they call an insurance pool that is used to replace wages. For example, in California, it is paid less than 1% of the payroll tax and that goes into the insurance pool run through a state agency. If parents need paid medical or family leave they have to request for it.

They apply to the state agency that funds the wage for replacement. Fathers are not working nor are they receiving their payment, but they are receiving wages that are being replaced by the state agency because they have paid into the fund. In reality, all they are receiving is their money back that they saved for the birth of a child or the adoption of a child.

The Stigmas

Many fathers are still thinking about paternity leave. In California, only seventeen percent of parents that took advantage of parental leave when the law went into effect were men.  In 2016, thirty-seven percent of the parents from California who took the paid leave were new fathers.

So since 2002, this jumped up 20 percent as dads became more interested in paternity leave.  In New York, dads are more reluctant and feel that stigma is placed on them if they take paternity leave, so many are unwilling to take this kind of leave from work. It could be their upbringing and culture that plays a factor in fathers worrying about a stigma placed on them for a role their wives should be taking.

Some say this stigma is a hoax and misunderstood and goes back to what a famous fictional movie character once said that a man who doesn’t spend time with the family is not a real man. This was quoted by the famous Vito Corleone from the movie “The Godfather”.

In addition, a man deciding not to try and take the bull by the horns and take paid paternity leave, is holding up the progress for all men in our society. There are many parental advocates and some feel that paternity leave is one of the main issues for transforming society in a better way. So dad’s pitch in, while you can!

Parental leave is one of the new largest policy levers that can switch the norms of society towards caregiving and help fathers become more involved in their kids’ lives. This will benefit their families and men as a whole. It’s been said that men who partake in paternity leave are more in tune with themselves as fathers and also become better at it.

This is what gives men an opportunity to have a chance at taking care of their newborns, and especially at the beginning of their child’s life. Fathers that take advantage of paternity leave, support women by letting them stay at work. There is nothing wrong with changing the usual roles around work and family. Many families have been doing this for years, it just hasn’t been talked about as much as it is now.

Parents decided who was going to stay home and who was going to work. In addition, some fathers had disabilities and mothers supported the whole family, but the fathers were really the great Mr. Moms that no one really knew or gave credit to, except families who loved them.

It’s sad that the case of paid paternity leave has just been a small trickle of water in the last 30 years, that finally is beginning to flow like a stream as more and more states are coming up with ways for fathers to take off and stay at home with their newborn children.

The good thing about fathers deciding to become more involved with their kids is that women are now more ready and able to find jobs and stay in the workplace and create a more equal role in society. This will eventually lead to much greater growth in the long run. 

It’s time women got their chance to rise above the glass ceiling and have their potential unlocked so there are more benefits for families and for a larger economy, which of course just keeps creating more job opportunities and adds additional goals and opportunities.

The United States still has a long way to go when it comes to getting the right amount of benefits that are paid to fathers who can stay home and help care for their new child. This is especially important for first-time parents. Eventually, the states will probably go to a privatized system for setting up money for fathers and mothers for paid parental leave instead of making them contribute their own money. 

Parents now have the option of setting aside medical bills and childcare expenses on a pretax basis and before their check is taxed. This money is taken off the top and if you are paying for braces or daycare, the money automatically is available on the day you have to pay the bill.

This is hopefully what America will see in the case of paternity leave is the right system, where fathers and mothers are allowed to receive the majority of their paycheck for a healthy amount of time so they can bond with their new child.