PARENTAL LEAVE – USE IT OR LOSE IT
Even when men have jobs that offer strong paternity leave, a majority don’t take it. Studies show that women are a third more likely to take advantage of FMLA leave than men. Fathers are less likely than mothers to take significant time off work to care for a child or family member.
What’s the holdup? Grissel Sejio, a veteran labor and employment attorney, said that gender bias, traditional cultural roles, and expectations play a huge role. Women take time off before and after giving birth because their physical health is at play, not just because they’re bonding with baby. Yet many companies – and men themselves – see paternal benefit as an extra perk instead of a necessity.
“For men, it’s a choice,” Sejio said. “But women – particularly one that has gone through a cesarean section, a hard pregnancy, gestational diabetes or any host of issues – don’t get to choose their career ambition over their physical health.”
Ironically men who are worried about finances could be playing it all wrong. In Sweden, researchers found that mothers got a 6.7% pay bump when fathers took an additional month of leave. Women with paid time off were also 40 percent more likely to return to work after birth than those without access to paid leave.
Seijo is not surprised. She says that real or practical movement around pay equity won’t happen unless benefits such as parental leave are considered just as essential for expectant fathers as they are for moms-to-be.
“If more men took the paternity leave, then the bias against FMLA or paid parental leave, especially as it relates to birthing or adopting, would shift,” notes Seijo. “But it won’t happen without them. They have to be front and center of this cultural shift.”