Personal Development
Paternity Leave in the US: A Guide to Getting it Right

Paternity Leave in the US: A Guide to Getting it Right

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The Many Benefits of Paternity Leave in the US

The introduction of a new child into a family is life-changing. While motherhood often involves the most obvious adjustment to daily life, experts recognize that it is a critical time for both parents. To support families through this special time, many countries and companies have created paid parental leave for the post-partum period or following an adoption.

However, the US lags behind many other countries in this area, with only 21% of US workers having access to paid parental leave through their employers. In 2014, the International Labor Organization (ILO) reported that 184 countries had regulations in place providing various forms of parental leave for mothers and fathers, with 71 of these wealthier countries offering paid paternity leave. Japan, South Korea, and Portugal have the most generous benefits for new fathers.

Fortunately, employers are not limited to the legal requirements of the country -- companies can choose to go above the standards and offer greater paternity leave benefits. Research has found that this type of family-friendly policy can result in an improved overall family life, a more equal division of labor, higher employee satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity.

Why are Fathers in the US Hesitant to Take Paternity Leave?

Unfortunately, in the US, many new fathers don't take full advantage of their right to paternity leave, often out of fear that job security will be compromised if they do. This attitude sets a tone between father and child that discourages true bonding and can result in an unfair share of child care responsibilities.

What Can Be Done to Improve Paternity Leave?

There are several steps that can be taken to improve the existing stance on paternity leave. In this guide, we will examine the current paternity leave laws in the US and the qualifications needed to take advantage of them. We will delve into different methods of implementing paternity leave and explore the negative attitudes towards paternity rights in the US and how we can bring about change.

What is Paternity Leave?

Put simply, paternity leave is a form of employee benefit that grants expectant and new fathers the time off they need to bond with their new child and partner. In the US, this period of time is usually 12 weeks and is unpaid unless the father is employed in one of the states that have passed laws offering paid leave.

The Benefits of Paternity Leave

The benefits of paternity leave go far beyond just the original parent. Fathers who take this time off have reported feeling more connected to their children, while families note an improved quality of parenting and an increase in family satisfaction. Employers also benefit, seeing boosts in employee satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity.

Paternity Leave: Encouraging a stronger family bond and improved work-life balance

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is the federal law that grants eligible American workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave in order to bond with a new child, without fear of job loss. Unfortunately, this law does not provde adequate support for new and adoptive fathers. According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, the US lags behind 41 other countries in terms of paternity leave, with paid leave ranging from 10 days in South Korea to 49 weeks in Japan.

Federal Paid Parental Leave

In December 2019, President Trump signed the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act (FEPLA) into law as an amendment to the FMLA, offering federal employees 12 weeks of paid leave. Additionally, individual states have it's own paid parental leave policies. Some states that provide paid parental leave include:

  • California: Qualified expectant parents may receive 60-70 percent of their weekly wages earned five to 18 months before the claim start date.
  • New York: New parent entitlements cover 12 weeks of paid time off within the first 12 months with the infant or adopted child, up to 67 percent of usual pay.
  • Massachusetts: 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave with eligible wages earned of $5400 in the prior 12 months.
  • New Jersey: 12 weeks of paid leave for an average weekly pay of $240 or more, with up to 85 percent of weekly wage capped at $993.
  • Rhode Island: 60 percent of wages for up to 30 weeks, with highest weekly wage capped at $978.
  • Washington: 12-18 weeks of paid parental leave, up to 90 percent of weekly wage, capped at $1327.
  • Connecticut: 95 percent of average weekly wage up to 40 times the state minimum, and 60 percent of average weekly wage above 40 times the state minimum, with 12 weeks of paid leave.
  • District of Columbia: Eight weeks of paid parental leave with 90 percent of average weekly earnings capped at 40 times 150 percent of the D.C. minimum wage, and 50 percent of weekly wage above this amount.

The funding for these programs vary, with states such as New York providing a fund from employer, employee, or both payroll deductions, while California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island use Temporary Disability Insurance to draw family leave benefits. Overall, the parental leave framework in the US is currently inadequate for the demands of modern parenting.

The Hope of Paid Parental Leave in the United States

With initiatives providing paid parental leave in certain states and federal legislation, there is increasing hope that all parents in the United States may soon have access to proper leave policies. Washington State, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts and Connecticut have already begun giving out premium tax deductions to fund their paid parental leave programs. In 2020, 72% of Fortune 500 companies also had started offering some form of parental leave benefits.

Leading Companies Offer Paid Parental Leave Benefits

Leading companies like Microsoft, Netflix, Deloitte and Shiken have taken the extra step to provide better protection for paternal workers. Microsoft provides expectant mothers with five months of paid leave and new fathers with three months, while Netflix and Deloitte grant a full year and eighteen weeks of paid leave respectively. Shiken also offers new parents with up to eight weeks of parental leave, in addition to specialists in parenting, nutrition, and sleep to provide extra support.

However, it should be noted that paternal benefits may differ drastically depending on the employer and industry. Generally, private sector employers provide more opportunities for paternity leave, while workers in the service industry may only have access to seven to eight percent of paid paternity leave.

Benefits of Paternity Leave for Family and Business

Paternity leave is widely accepted in the developed world and it has several benefits for both parents and employers. For families, paternity leave provides essential time for a father to bond with their child and develop confident and supportive parenting skills. It also encourages gender equity and cooperation between parents. On the business side, providing paternity leave can keep employees energized and be used as a useful perk for attracting top talent.

Five Ways Paternity Leave Benefits Families

Paternity leave is particularly important for infants, as it provides a crucial opportunity for parents to form a strong attachment with their child. Below are five ways paternity leave benefits families:

  • Encourages father-child bonding and helps fathers develop a confident and supportive parenting style.
  • Improves gender equity in home and work-life.
  • Provides healthy co-parenting opportunities for parents.
  • Time spent bonding with the child can strengthen the relationship between partners.
  • Levels the playing field for mothers.

With the growing support for paternity leave policies, it is obvious that the US should no longer be left behind in this regard. As fathers are provided with paid leave, families can be better protected from any financial hardships associated with parenting. American fathers need their paternal leave to ensure a better work-life balance, which will in turn foster more involvement in parenting activities.

Why Fathers Should Take Paternity Leave

The advantages of taking paternity leave, both to the family and employers, are well-known yet only a small percentage of fathers opt in. Reasons for this reluctance may include fear of job security, discrimination, and a potential negative impact on their career prospects. Some may simply deem the leave unnecessary.

How to Prepare for Paternity Leave

When both the parents and the company benefits from paternity leave, preparation is essential. Fathers should plan ahead to optimize the first experiences with their children. This requires planning on timing, workloads, and expectations to be clear. Here are some steps to take before commencing paternity leave:

  • Determine the family finances for the stretch of the leave and ensure expenses are covered.
  • Delegate any tasks that can be handled to colleagues before the leave.
  • Notify co-workers and superiors, as well as customers and other clients to keep everyone informed.
  • Be prepared mentally, emotionally, and physically for the upcoming role of fatherhood.

How Managers Can Support an Employee Taking Leave

As awareness grows around paternity leave, employers can support their workers by:

  • Promoting a work culture that encourages paternity leave, with teams actively educated on the benefits.
  • Offering paid parental leave options for fathers, to remove financial fears.
  • Educating managers and co-workers on appropriate behavior as fathers take their leave.

Moving Forward

As a growing number of countries, including the United States, work to implement paternity leave policies, there is a great deal of potential for strengthening the family unit and improving employee satisfaction. Establishing paternity policies in the workplace can boost morale, enable better father-child relationships, and create a more positive working environment.

Requirements for Paternity Leave

Paid parental leave is still a rare opportunity for many parents, but paternity leave is increasingly available as the parenting responsibilities are more evenly divided, and with companies offering options for fathers in their policies.

Paid Paternity Leave: What Employers Need to Know

On an increasing level, companies are offering fathers paid paternity leave. However, this shift often comes with higher expectations for work and productivity during the leave. While paid paternity leave is a great step forward in the world of work-life balance, it can be difficult for employers to navigate.

Understanding the Law

When considering paternity leave policies, employers should understand the federal laws surrounding paternity leave. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, companies with 50 or more employees must provide 12 weeks of unpaid paternity leave.

The Benefits of Paid Paternity Leave

For many dads, the traditional nine-to-five workday no longer fits their work-life balance. With more fathers choosing to take an active hand in raising their children, paid paternity leave is gaining traction around the world as a way to enable new fathers to spend time with their families and to help pick up the parenting slack.

Studies have shown that paternity leave can improve the mental health of fathers, provide increased bonding opportunities and support for mothers returning to work, and reduce stress in the home. Fathers who take paternity leave generally report feeling more connected to their children and more motivated to participate in their care. Furthermore, mothers who receive assistance from fathers during their child's first weeks of life report higher levels of satisfaction with their own childcare. Paternity leave also assists in the more equitable distribution of family labor in relation to childcare and household tasks, which can have long-term benefits for both partners.

Advantages for Companies

Many companies are recognizing the value in offering paid paternity leave, both in terms of employee retention and satisfaction as well as to help close the wage gap between men and women. Companies should consider the qualification criteria for paternity leave, such as how many years employees must be employed for and does the paternity leave offered match that of a mother's leave, in order to ensure fairness for both genders. While some countries such as Sweden have had paid parental leave for decades, other countries are now following suit as they begin to recognize the importance of supporting new fathers and the division of family labor.

Companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all implemented paid paternity leave policies. Employers should follow the lead of larger companies and consider offering paid paternity leave as an option. Support for new fathers can also be given by allowing flexible working arrangements, while providing resources such as family counseling and childcare. Understanding the current laws and standards can help employers provide their employees with the most updated legal requirements.


In conclusion, paid paternity leave is increasingly seen as a global trend, and for good reason. With paternity leave, fathers gain important bonding time with their children, as well as the opportunity to be more involved in their daily care. This positive change can have numerous benefits for families and the workplace in general, such as improved mental health of fathers, increased support for mothers, and a more equitable distribution of family labor. Additionally, companies can benefit from offering paid paternity leave, in terms of employee retention, employee satisfaction, and in helping close the wage gap between men and women.

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