More American dads are taking advantage of paid family leave

Taking time off from work when a new child arrives isn’t just for moms. Fathers are taking advantage of the benefit too — in the few workplaces that have it.

Studies indicate that the first 12 weeks of a baby’s life are the most important weeks of their entire life, and it is during this time they develop an eternal bond with their parental figures. However, many fathers miss their baby’s very first smile among other milestones that occur during this time. Why? Because they are more likely than mothers to be at work.

This is partially due to the fact that approximately only 14% of U.S. employers offer paid paternity leave. Furthermore, paid or unpaid, nearly 40% of all American workers are not offered job-protected leave.

But that’s slowly changing. California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York most recently have all passed laws requiring employers to offer paid family leave (PFL) to fathers and mothers.

New York’s PFL program went into effect in January. It’s unique in that is made possible through public-private partnerships, meaning that it is governed by the state but coverage is provided by private insurance carries like ShelterPoint Life Insurance Co., which reported that 27% of claims for paid time off were filed by fathers.

Currently, ShelterPoint has 157,000 employer policyholders which equates to 1.5 million employees who are eligible to receive PFL.

“It’s great to see that 27% of claims come from dads,” said Katrin Atienza, assistant vice president at ShelterLife, “and it’s great to see how they are adapting to changing roles in society.”

Since California implemented PFL policy in 2004, there was a 46% increase in fathers taking at least a week off of work, according to new research conducted by Ann Bartel, Merrill Lynch professor of workforce transformation at Columbia Business School. Though eligible for six weeks of paid leave, however, the majority of fathers in California took 1.5 weeks off.

“In this country, it isn’t as common for fathers to get involved,” Bartel said. There is also a stigma associated with father’s taking time off, she added. “Some are afraid of asking their employers for time off,” she said.


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  Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg sought to end this stigma for Facebook employees when he announced that he would be taking two months off following the birth of his second daughter in 2017.

“I’m going to take advantage of Facebook’s option to take leave in parts,” he said at the time. “At Facebook, we offer four months of maternity and paternity leave because studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, it’s good for the entire family.”

Elisabeth Buchwald is a reporting intern at MarketWatch. She is based in New York.

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