A alot of people have been writing about the amazing change in parental benefits recently announced by Netflix (NASDAQ: FLIX), whereby the copmany is now offiering a full year of paid family leave. The new benefit allows new moms and dads to take time off to bond with their new child – either biological or adoptive. And, while not required by the State or Federal mandates, the new policy helps set the bar for paid leave and employee retention in the highly competitive Silicon Valley – or even amongst publically traded companies.
Noting the competiveness, Microsoft expanded their policy to provide 12 weeks of paid leave for both parents, and Adobe today announced it’s extension of family leave to a maximum 16 weeks – hardly enough in my opinion.
I have to completely applaud the shift and recongition by the company that providing comprehensive paid time-off for both mothers AND fathers. But, aside from the provisions offered in the US’s Family Medical leave Act for 12 weeks of unpaid leave, only 10-15% of employers offer paid paternal leave – almost all white collar professions.
Moreover, an increasing number of fathers desire the time off. While nine out of ten American fathers take some time off work for the birth or adoption of a child, Labor Department survey data found 70% of fathers take 10 days of leave or less. In California, the number of men taking it has doubled in a decade. But the problem is that dads are often overlooked when it comes to offering paid time off to be with their families. To gain any sort of compensation from the state, fathers need to apply through the disability insurance compensation program.
From paper towel commercials to PTA meetings, let’s face it: moms are assumed to be the default parents, which is why more companies offer paid maternity leave than paternity leave. But this notion doesn’t reflect reality and needs to change!
Fathers are becoming more and more engaged with their children’s lives; American dads today spend nearly 7.5 hours a week with their children, 3x the 1965 average, according to a 2011 Pew Research Report. And half of those dads wish they could spend even more time with the kids.
Fathers may get more out of their roles as parents, according to a 2013 study in the journal Psychological Science. In several studies, fathers report experiencing more meaning, happiness and positive emotions in their lives than single women and men. Mothers didn’t show quite the same boost in happiness. (The authors suggest this may be because moms feel more stress from childcare and housework than dads do.)
Though it’s critical for both moms and dads to provide warmth and love, Dad’s acceptance may be the most important, according to a 2012 study in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review.
“Knowing that kids feel loved by their father is a better predictor of young adults’ sense of well-being, of happiness, of life satisfaction than knowing about the extent to which they feel loved by their mothers,” study co-author Ronald Rohner told LiveScience.
Companies will only be as strong as their respective workforce – and that includes valuing what an increasing number of family men want – Family Time. And, yes I know that it’s difficult for companies to offer every person a year off. But the option should be there to offer balanced benefits for PTO when it comes to welcoming new children into the family.
The way to change the dynamic isn’t by sitting back and letting companies recognize that there’s a need to give dads a paid break. It’s by standing up and being an active participant in the debate.
We need leaders to step up and recognize the needs for compensating fathers and providing the ability for them to take time off – in white collar and blue collar positions.
We need to steal policies from Finland, Iceland, Norway and other European nations that recognize that there is a Gender Equality issue for parental leave, “enabeing a more equal division of work between men and women by fostering parental involvement in childcare.”
We need to understand that paternal leave incentivizes the labor market as more men struggle to find an appropriate work/life balance – especially for new families – AND that it provides greater job security.