When it comes to supporting working fathers, America is playing catch-up.
Most of the world’s developed countries offer some form of paid leave for fathers, but the United States isn’t one of them. The vast majority of American companies do not offer any kind of paid leave for new dads. And, even among those who are offered leave, many dads don’t take the time available to them, despite all of the ways it could benefit their families.
When a company’s culture supports working families balancing their responsibilities at work and at home, it can boost loyalty and productivity among the workforce -- an arrangement beneficial to both employer and employee.
Here, we’ll look at some of the ways companies can encourage new dads to take paternity leave and support them after they return.
1. Offer Paid Paternity Leave
A big part of the reason new dads don’t take leave is that they can’t afford not to work. According to a new study from Boston College’s Center for Work and Families, most fathers said they would need to be paid 70 percent or more of their salary to take time off from work, and nearly half said it would have to be 100 percent.
“There are a lot of sleepless nights when you are a new parent,” says Vicki Shabo, vice president at the National Partnership for Women and Families, “But worrying about finances and how you’re going to pay for the diapers that your baby needs should not be a part of your sleeplessness.”
Read more about Companies That Offer Great Paternity Leave
2. Encourage Employees to Take Leave
It’s not enough to offer leave if employees don’t feel comfortable taking time off. The amount of time fathers take off around the birth of a new child elated to the supportiveness of their workplace culture and manager, according to the BC study. “On average, the greater the support for fathers taking time off after the birth of their children, the more time that fathers took off,” the findings say.
Read about Why Dads Need Paternity Leave
3. Create a Family-Friendly Culture
Even if your company doesn’t offer paid leave, you can still create a culture that encourages dads who choose to cobble together leave using vacation, working from home and unpaid time available to them. Having a manager sit down with an expectant dad and map out a plan for leave, including how his team will cover for him during his absence,can go a long way toward making an employee more comfortable about taking his leave.
“Shifting culture a little bit is something that can have very direct and immediate results,” says Sarah Jane Glynn, associate director of Women’s Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress.
4. Lead By Example
Men are often concerned about how they’ll be perceived by bosses and colleagues so they don’t take leave, says Chris Duchene, vice president of Global Workplace Solutions at Care.com. “So it has to start from the top down. If you want to change perception on fatherhood and paternity leave, you have to lead by example and establish a supportive culture.”
5. Start a Dads Group or Mentor Program
Some companies, like Ernst and Young LLP (EY), have gone beyond offering paid leave. On top of the six week of paid leave EY offers dads, working parents are offered formal flexible work arrangements and can benefit from the company’s Career and Family Transitions coaching program, which supports select new moms and dads though individual and group coaching sessions. Programs such as these are often cited as reasons EY is routinely listed among America’s best places to work.
6. Develop Plans for Balancing Work and Family Responsibilities
Part of the reason new dads are reluctant to take leave, or utilize flex time on family matters, is that they feel burdened by work responsibilities. A company can counter that stress by having strong teams and plans in place. “Having a good manager who shows how you can come together as a team and handle it takes some of the stress away from the dad taking time off,” says Glynn.
By helping new dads balance work and life, you’re enabling them to be a bigger part of both their family and your company. Not only that, but by having policies in place to support working fathers, you can make your company more attractive to prospective employees.