Paternity Leave: Do You Think It’s Important for Employers to Offer It?

by TTMK on June 24, 2013 · 11 comments

Back in the old days, when a couple had a baby, Mom probably wasn’t even entertaining the idea of going back to work.  She was going to be a Mom, and that meant staying home and caring for kids was the only choice viewed as the right choice.  It would be frowned upon to go back to work.  That is, if she was even working in the first place.

Dad, on the other hand, might be handing out “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl cigars” as he went back into work a few days later.  After all, his place was in the office or wherever he worked, where men were supposed to be working to provide for their families.  Just as the woman was at home being a Mom, where she was “supposed to be”.

What about today? Well, when a couple has a baby, it’s pretty clear that the woman will be leaving work for 3 months before coming back to work.  In some cases, she might be able to work it out that she will take extra time off.  In other cases, she just might not return at all.  But there are options.  Companies can’t just punish you for taking 3 months of maternity leave, and really shouldn’t be expecting you to work from home or do anything whatsoever during that time.

For a new father, the situation gets a bit more dicey.  Some companies do offer some form of paternity leave, even if it’s just a week or two, to allow the father a chance to help with the baby and take care of the mother who just gave birth.  It’s not like childbirth is a super easy thing for women, where they’ll be able to bounce out of bed and be back to normal in hours! Some help from her guy can be a really good thing, and vital in most cases I would think.

My Experience Without Paternity Leave

However, this isn’t taken seriously by all people.  I recall when my oldest was born, I did not have the option of taking paternity leave.  It didn’t exist at that company at the time.  I actually had to take vacation days after the birth of my daughter! I used 7 days, which was a big chunk of my time off.  I originally said I wanted to take 2 weeks, but I cut it short.

When I got back, of course there was the usual assortment of well-wishes, congratulations, etc.  It was nice.  There were also a few comments from a couple of close teammates of mine, who were friends, that indicated that our mutual boss at the time had been making some comments about how he was surprised I was out of the office so long.  Apparently, he wanted to have me working on some things, and couldn’t wait to have me get back in.  So, they say he made comments that outlined this in a very nice way to them, while I was out for those 7 days.

When I got back in, he was anxious for me to get back in the swing of things.  He made a comment that he knew I’d be back within less than 10 days, as he thought I’d get bored silly at home after all that time.

Bored? Really? Keep in mind he had kids of his own.

It would have been nice to have paternity leave, so I didn’t have to take that time off, and so I could just be gone and not worry about anything else.

Watching Someone I Know Try to Take Paternity Leave

Later, my company ended up getting paternity leave.  I ended up having a different boss by then, it this guy was becoming a father again.  He wasn’t a first-time Dad, but he was really excited about having this 2nd child.  So, he planned to take his 2 weeks of paternity leave.

Naturally, I wished that I could have gotten paternity leave too.  This was less than a year after my becoming a Dad, and the benefit of paternity leave was new at the company.  Nevertheless, I was happy for my new boss and his wife.  Good guy, and I totally supported the idea of him being out for 2 weeks because I know how valuable and really necessary it is to be at home during this time.

Well, HIS boss didn’t quite see it that away.  Apparently, from what I heard 2nd hand, he was livid that the guy – my new boss – would actually take 2 weeks of paternity leave while still keeping all his vacation time intact.  He had an old-school attitude, that this wasn’t the way it always had been, and he never got to take time off and it worked out okay for him.  He supposedly made a comment along the lines of expressing that he wasn’t quite certain that he was required to permit the paternity leave to be taken.

In the end, the guy took paternity leave.  But clearly, the boss was annoyed.

My Viewpoint:  I think paternity leave should be standard.  Of course, I acknowledge that the need for a man to take the same amount of time off as a woman does is not there.  Women deserve to get maternity leave, and there is zero comparison between their needs and men’s needs.  However, she could use help from her partner, and the baby can use Dad around too!  It just seems more wholesome, reasonable, and fair to allow men to take 2 weeks of paternity leave.  After all, a baby is a life-changing event.

Old school has its place, but sometimes it needs to be jettisoned!

My Questions for You:

What do you think of paternity leave?

Do you think it’s important, and should be routine? How long should it be?

In places you have worked, has it been offered and accepted as “safe” to take from a career perspective?

 

 

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Edward Antrobus June 24, 2013 at 7:23 am

I think I agree with your old boss. I can’t imagine taking that much time off of work. My company doesn’t even offer leave for fathers OR mothers. At least, not for seasonal workers like me. At my level, it is simply hourly pay and, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.

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TTMK June 24, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Seriously? Even for those becoming parents, couldn’t imagine taking 2 weeks? That’s remarkable that a company wouldn’t make accommodations for someone going through such a major, life-changing event – regardless of level. Everyone should be treated the same.

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Jules@Faithful With a Few June 24, 2013 at 11:08 am

It really should be! I had my first close to my due date so fortunately husband was there for a week during a vacation he took,but what if baby came early or late? My second was planned so he had to take vacation that week also.

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TTMK June 24, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Agreed, it should be! Thanks for sharing your family’s experience by the way.

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Matt Becker June 24, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I don’t know about it being required, but I think it’s a great thing to be able to offer. My boss was great about it. We don’t have any formal policies (it’s a tiny startup), but she’s a real family-first type person and let me take the time I needed. I was probably out of the office for two weeks, though I had my laptop and stayed on top of certain things during that time. But it was really great to be able to be home, help my wife, and get to know our son. Those first few weeks are really unlike anything else.

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TTMK June 24, 2013 at 11:10 pm

That’s great that you were able to be out of the office for 2 weeks. Those first few weeks are something else, I agree.

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AverageJoe June 25, 2013 at 12:54 pm

I learned two things when I managed people: don’t f$%! with their paycheck and don’t s@#$ on their time off. If you mess with people’s time off or make them feel like you don’t approve of their time off, it nearly always backfires: the employee becomes resentful and doesn’t give it 100% anymore. There are other ways to demonstrate that the work is important.

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TTMK June 26, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Agreed, people relish time off and have earned it. Employees are not indentured servants! Or, at least shouldn’t put themselves in a position to be treated as such. I think paternity leave should be required of companies, in terms of offering it.

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Kevin @ Growing Family Benefits June 25, 2013 at 5:18 pm

You don’t mention the size of your employer. The FMLA requires twelve weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn, or sick family member. This applies to both men and women.

There are employer size and hours worked criteria, so not everybody is automatically eligible. A variety of states have similar laws which extend or expand upon the federal law.

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DJ - MoneyforCollegePro June 26, 2013 at 11:51 am

I think it is incredibly important! I took 4 weeks off and I would not have traded it for anything. I could not even imagine going right back to work. Those first few weeks were awesome bonding with our daughter, and helping my wife!

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Michael @ The Student Loan Sherpa June 26, 2013 at 7:59 pm

I definitely think it should be routine. Not only from a human perspective, but I have no doubt that employees are far more productive if they get this sort of basic perk.

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