Paternity Leave Statistics: Insights Gleaned

Insights gleaned from paternity leave statistics show the average leave in the U.S. is shorter than 10 days, most men are glad they took the time off, and more.

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Paternity leave gives fathers time off from their jobs when the family has a new child. The purpose of this leave is to offer time to both parents to build a stronger family life. It enables the father to become a part of a new child’s life, often during a new baby’s first few weeks.

An increasing number of countries, states, and companies provide paid time off for both new fathers and new mothers. Paid maternity leave is common. But paternity leave statistics show that the number of countries that offer paid paternity leave is still fairly low.

Research at Ball State University notes that nearly half of all American men support the idea of paid paternal leave.¹ But their use of unpaid paternal leave is a different story. Federal law allows fathers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid paternity leave. But fewer than 5% of fathers take 2 or more weeks of that leave. In fact, the Ball State Study notes that even those fathers offered paid leave take a week or less. Why? We will consider that issue.

Where is paternity leave offered?

Federal paternity leave benefits

In the United States, the federal government addresses paid paternity leave through the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act. As it applies to “covered employers,” the act gives working parents 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a child’s birth or adoption. (It also applies for certain other family or medical reasons.)

U.S. state paternity leave benefits

The offering of paternity leave benefits varies widely among U.S. states. But a growing number are passing paid family leave (PFL) laws that incorporate paid parental leave. This typically includes paid paternal leave.

Some states have PFL laws on the books but they’re not active yet. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, 13 states and the District of Columbia had PFL laws as of January 2023. That’s about 27% of the total 50 states, plus D.C.

States with paid family leave include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland. Add Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington. And the District of Columbia also has PFL laws.

Other countries’ paid paternity leave policies

The vast majority of countries don’t offer paid paternal leave. But many other countries are more generous than the U.S. about paid leave for new parents (including fathers). Australia offers 2 weeks at minimum wage. Spain offers 12 weeks at 100% of salary. Sweden offers 14 weeks at 78%. And Japan offers 52 weeks at 67%, then 50% of salary.

Major U.S. companies that offer paternity leave

Netflix offers unlimited fully paid parental leave within the first year of a child’s birth. This is similar to the company’s vacation policy. Employees just have to arrange the parental leave with their supervisor.

Bank of America offers 16 weeks of 100% paid parental leave for new moms and dads. That leave can be taken anytime within a child’s first year. Another 10 weeks of unpaid paternal leave is available if new fathers want time off and don’t need the salary.

Companies with gender-based leave policies may get in trouble

In 2019, JP Morgan Chase settled a lawsuit over unequal parental leave for $5 million.² Seeking gender equality, a male employee filed an equal employment opportunity suit for a gender-neutral policy for parental leave. This set a new precedent for the comparison of maternity and paternity leave.

How many men take advantage of paternity leave?

Analyzing paternity leave statistics isn’t necessarily a straightforward task. Most statistics lump unpaid family leave and paid paternal leave together; some consider any time off to be parental leave. Despite statistical nuances, virtually all of the data shows that men feel a strong need to be in the workplace.

Men don’t take much time off for paternity leave

The U.S. Department of Labor notes that the average paternity leave in the U.S. is shorter than 10 days. The gender wage gap in our work culture has the vast majority of men as the breadwinners in the family. Many men feel that taking leave might hurt job security and job protection, having a negative impact on their careers. Labor statistics show support for this difficult concept.

Men are taking more paternity leave when it’s paid

Men in a Boston College study reported that they would need at least 70% of their salary to take leave. Despite that, The New York Times reports that 90% of men take at least some time off when their child is born. It also notes that 60% of men who received full salary took the maximum of paternal leave allotted to them. Those weeks of paid leave help fathers build a stronger bond with each family member.

These numbers show a correlation between the benefit rate and the average length of time taken off. Even then, though, an increase in pay doesn’t necessarily lead to a major increase in time off. The U.S. Department of Labor notes that when California implemented paid family leave, its women increased their time off by 5 weeks. But California men increased their time off by only a few days.

Learn more about paternity leave

The laws and benefits for paternity leave continue to evolve throughout the United States (and the world). Where does your company stand on the issue of parental leave? To strengthen your knowledge about taking paternity leave, as well as about other topics related to the work-life balance, check out the resources at Workest.




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