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Care@Work / Care@Work Blog / The Zuckerberg Effect: 2016 Should Be a Breakthrough Year for Paternity Leave in the US

The Zuckerberg Effect: 2016 Should Be a Breakthrough Year for Paternity Leave in the US

Patrick Ball on January 19, 2016 04:24 PM

To use a sports metaphor, we could say paternity leave is driving into the opponent’s territory – past the 50 yard line, and not yet to the Red Zone, but heading toward paydirt and picking up steam.

If a federal policy providing paid leave for all new parents – think FAMILY Act – would be a game-winning score, then another wave of cities, states and employers extending paid parental leave to new dads is a touchdown to keep the momentum building.

We’re fully expecting 2016 to be a breakthrough year for paternity leave. And here are a few of the reasons why.  

  1. The Zuckerberg Effect
    Disappointing stories abound about men who have taken time off and were somehow punished for it, whether taken off an important project, passed up for a promotion or worse. This has led to many advocates for working dads to emphasize the importance of cultural change to complement parental leave policies.

    In Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, working dads have a new role model – a crazy-successful, hugely influential professional at the pinnacle of the business world who has very publicly taken 2 months of paternity leave after the birth of his daughter, Max. He’s enjoying his time off, posting pictures of himself changing diapers, commenting on parenthood and providing a highly, highly visible example of what a modern dad can aspire to be.

    Before Zuckerberg was TOMS Shoes CEO Blake Mycoskie, who announced he’d be taking 12 weeks of paternity leave. And before Mycoskie was Daniel Murphy, the New York Mets secondbaseman who was criticized for missing two games to be with his family for the birth of his first child.  And now we have Zuckerberg, who’s using his platform – and his 47 million Facebook followers – to challenge stereotypes about working dads … and daughters too.

    READ MORE: 5 Awesome Ways Companies are Taking Care of Dads 

  2. Stats, Stats, Stats, Stats, Stats
    Let’s start with the fact that only 12 percent of U.S workers have access to paid family leave through their employer, and contrast that with the 89 percent of American dads who feel it’s important for employers to provide paid paternity or parental leave. Want to see that fathers today want to share caregiving and breadwinning responsibilities with their partners? There’s a stat for that. Looking for evidence that when fathers are involved early in their children’s lives that they stay more actively involved in their children’s lives and it leads to positive outcomes. There’s a stat for that too. Further, as the Economist explains, paternity leave is good for women’s careers as it makes child care less likely to fall exclusively on the mother, which can lead to depressed wages, passed up promotions and other ill career effects.

    If those stats support the want and need for paternity leave in the United States, then you can look Best Places to Work reports for evidence of the business benefits of investing in paid parental leave. Best Places to Work Lists, like Glassdoor’s Employees Choice Awards are filled with companies that support working families through benefits like paid maternity and paternity leave. The chief economist at Glassdoor reported recently that companies on their Best Places to Work lists reliably (and soundly) outperform the overall market – “beating the return on the S&P 500 by as much as 122 percent between 2009 and 2014.” Regarding the impact of a government-supported paid leave program, a survey of California business owners found that more than 90 percent had a positive or no negative impact on profitability and performance, turnover and employee morale. Only 89 percent reported a positive or no negative impact on productivity over the first 10 years.   

    LEARN MORE: Why New Dads Need Paternity Leave 

  3. Millennials Rising
    More than any generation before, Millennial men and women are entering the workforce on equal footing and expecting to share in caregiving and breadwinning responsibilities as they start families. Their desire – and constant struggle – to balance or integrate work and life has been a forcing function for many organizations looking to attract and retain today's best young talent.

    How important is paid parental leave to Millennials? An EY survey last year found 38 percent of US Millennials would “move to another country with better parental leave benefits.”
     As modern dads redefine their roles at work and at home, the business world and society are playing catch up. So when less than 15 percent of employers offer any type of paid leave for new dads, those companies who do provide paid paternity leave become more attractive to men thinking about starting a family. According to the Boston College Center for Work and Family’s “The New Dad” reports, 93 percent of Millennials said if they were considering a new job and considering having another child in the future, it would be extremely, very or somewhat important that the employer provides paid paternity or paid parental leave.

    READ MORE: Peak Fatherhood and Its Impact on the Workplace 

  4. US, Left Behind  
    You already know the United States is the only developed nation with no policy for providing paid parental leave for new mothers after the birth of a child. But did you know that 70 countries offer paid leave for new dads, either in the form of paternity leave or shared parental leave? Sweden was the first country to offer fathers the right of paid leave, all the way back in 1974.  Today, Scandinavian countries, including Sweden, Finland and Norway, have some of the most generous paid paternity leave policies and, not surprisingly, are the most equal in terms of gender parity. While not as common as paid leave for new moms, statutory paternity leave has been catching on globally. Ireland recently passed legislation that would allow fathers to apply for two weeks of paid paternity leave following the birth of a child, a policy set to take effect in September 2016.  

So the US is lagging woefully behind the rest of the world when it comes to paid parental leave, but there is momentum building at city, state and organizational levels. More companies are seeing the value in paid leave and, with role models like Zuckerberg, Mycoskie and Murphy leading the way, more dads are taking the time to spend with their families. 

Put it all together and we think 2016 could be a breakthrough year for paternity leave in the United States. Do you? 


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