Why Paid Paternity Leave Should be Mandated.  

Opinions on Debatable Issues #41

According to Britannica, parental leave is an “employee benefit that provides job-protected leave from employment to care for a child following its birth or adoption.” Currently, it is normal that mothers have paid maternity leave while few fathers spend time off when they have a newborn or new adoption. Today, 90 countries mandate paid paternity leave globally.

Men Just Dipping Toes in Expanding Sea of Paid Parental Leave
Bloomberg Law

Paternity leaves were shown to help alleviate workforce inequality. “Gender inequality will continue in the workplace for as long as early-years parenting is primarily seen as women’s work,” said Emma Banister, professor at the University of Manchester’s Work and Equalities Institute. This stereotype is reinforced when paternity leave is not paid, forcing fathers to remain at work and mothers take care of domestic affairs. A successful example of paid paternity leave is Sweden, which is also the leading country among advanced economies in terms of female labor market participation. One study in 2019 found that “approximately 90% of eligible Swedish fathers claim paternity leave and that on average, they take 96% of the total amount of leave time allotted to them”. This shows that paid paternity leave has tangible impacts on workplace gender equality. Moreover, this change is supported not just by women but also by males. Liz Pank, who interviewed hundreds of men, observed that “Many wanted to upend their fathers’ tired definition of masculinity.” 

Secondly, paternity leave assists the formation of better father-children relationships. A paper published in 2019 showed that “even nine years later, children whose fathers took at least two weeks of paternity leave after they were born reported feeling closer to their fathers than children with fathers who did not take leave”. It was found that “Men’s hormones can shift both before and after a child’s birth” and that “fathers’ brains reflect the transition to parenthood as well”. According to New York Times, a Spanish study uncovered “birth remodeling of a part of the brain linked with social cognition, and greater neural change predicted stronger responses to infant images”. This means spending time with babies is essential for preparing fathers to be ready for their later interactions and family relations. Moreover, the study found that the bonding effect was strongest among “men who had adverse childhood experiences, suggesting that extra contact with infants was especially transformative for men at greatest risk of bonding difficulties”. These therapeutic effects make paternity leave even more beneficial and important. The more time spent in close interaction with the infant cause greater changes to the parent’s brain, showing everyone can become a good father with enough practice. 

The most popular parenting styles and how to identify yours | NCT
NCT

Paternity leaves to share parenting responsibilities help maintain stable marriages. Studies show that, for heterosexual married couples, the father taking any paternity leave after the birth of a child led to lower divorce risk even six years after the birth. In the longitudinal study that followed 6,000 couples from their child was a baby until kindergarten age, those with “fathers who took even just a week or two of paternity leave were 26 percent more likely to stay married, compared with couples in which fathers took no leave”. This might be partly due to the mother’s improved mental health. In a new study published in The Journal of Child and Family Studies, researchers found that mothers experience less stress deprivation, depression, and stress when their partners took paternity leave.

For Better or Worse: The Marriage-Health Connection - Sacramento Magazine
Sacramento Magazine

Those benefits can only be actualized when fathers are actually spending time with their infants, which is not always happening in the US because they are not paid most of the time. Currently, The United States offers FMLA paternity leave but is an unpaid benefit. It exacerbates wealth disparity as poor dads can’t access paid leave but rich dads can. Therefore, paternity leave is not enough. They must be paid. 

In terms of practicality, New York State, California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington state, and Washington, D.C., which have laws in place requiring employers to provide paid leave to employees, proves that a mandate is possible with the rights provisions and specific considerations of exceptions and criteria. In WA, with a cap of $1000 per week, “the paid leave and medical leave (or sick leave) benefits will be funded by a combination of employees paying a percentage of their wages to pay for the benefit as well as employers doing the same on behalf of their employees”. If one makes less than the state average weekly wage, 90%+ of their wage will be taken care of, allowing them to spend valuable time with a family member. Similar policies can be applied to other states.

Watch for gray areas in new state leave law - Vancouver Business Journal
Vancouver Business Journal

It is reasonable that some question who will be paying the cost. In reality. businesses take care of most of the cost, which might seem like lots of wasted spending. However, the long-term benefits render those short-term losses acceptable. According to New York Times, “paid leave raises the probability that mothers return to employment later, and then work more hours and earn higher wages”. In addition, according to Mr. Ruhm of the University of Virginia, mothers who took leave in California, where mandates paid parental leave, were 6 percent more likely to be working a year later than those who did not. They also “worked 15 to 20 percent more hours during the second year of their child’s life than those who did not take leave, and their hourly wages increased about 5 percent”. This means fewer employee changes and less money needed to train employees. When a similar phenomenon happens to the male population as well, the benefits can be doubled. On the whole, therefore, paid paternity leave is not a huge economic burden as my opponents argued and it can actually decrease the wage gap.

Gender wage inequality in the United States: Causes and solutions to  improve family well-being and economic growth - Equitable Growth
Equitable Growth

Some might point to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, arguing that it caused employers to avoid hiring disabled people to avoid additional costs required for accommodations. yet, this example cannot be applied to the current resolution because Men are different than disabled people. While businesses can reject disabled people who are only a small percentage of the workforce, they cannot reject half of the population. Rather than increasing discrimination, paid paternity leave mandate helps balance out discrimination against women and the wage gap. 

In short, paternity leave has numerous benefits that can only tangibly make a difference in our daily life when they are paid to ensure people are taking advantage of this benefit. 

Paternity Leave Law in California: A Guide to Dad's Rights (2021)
Work Lawyers PC

Sources:

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