A Father’s Day Gift That Benefits Everyone
By Ryan Johnson
A whopping 85% of fathers would do anything to be very involved in the early weeks and months after their child’s birth or adoption, according to State of the World’s Fathers: Unlocking the Power of Men’s Care 2019 by Dove Men+Care and Promundo. Yet, fewer than half of the world’s countries — 48% — offer paid paternity leave, and often this is less than three weeks. The United States is one of the countries that does not provide any.
Even when paid leave exists, fewer than 50% of fathers take as much time as the policy allows. Some corporations have denied men equal paid-leave benefits as they offer women. JPMorgan Chase recently settled a class action suit after a dad demanded equal parental leave for men. Social and cultural stigma account for men’s reluctance to take advantage of this benefit even when offered.
“Having robust family leave benefits women and men across the board,” said Caroline Simard, Research Director of Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University. For women entrepreneurs, paid leave makes entrepreneurship more viable. The reality is that many additional challenges exist for women entrepreneurs, including how to handle childcare in a reliable and cost-effective way. Knowing that their husbands, wives, and significant others have paid leave to share in the care of a newborn or a newly adopted child ensures that all women entrepreneurs — not just those with money — have the support and peace of mind they need when creating a family.
Offering paid leave makes companies more competitive. Tech companies are investing in paid leave to attract and retain top talent. While this is good, it also has the unintended consequence of disincentivizing people from starting their own companies. “People are making career decisions based on benefits,” said Simard. Paid leave at the federal levels helps small businesses compete with big companies for talent.
Having involved dads benefits kids by showing boys and girls that chores and caregiving are not “women’s work,” commented Vicki Shabo, Senior Fellow: Paid Leave Policy and Strategy, Better Life Lab @ New America. It is everyone’s work. And when dads help around the house, couples have stronger relationships.
An overwhelming majority (84%) of voters support a comprehensive national paid family and medical leave policy that covers all people who work: Democrats (94%), Independents (83%), and Republicans (74%), according to Voters’ Views on Paid Family + Medical Leave a poll conducted by the National Partnership for Women & Families. Voters prefer paying for this policy through a shared cost between employers and employees:
- 38% prefer a shared contribution between employers and employees
- 21% prefer employer- or company-only funding
- 19% prefer federal budget funds, even if it means a tax increase
- 3% prefer individuals drawing early from Social Security
- 2% prefer employee-only funding it
Federal government intervention is necessary to ensure that low- and medium-wage jobs have access to paid leave, commented Shabo. Momentum is building to enhance current policy, but no legislation has been enacted. Two approaches are being proposed.
- Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a presidential candidate, and Representative Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CN) reintroduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which would provide workers with up to 12 weeks of partial income while taking family leave. It would be funded responsibly by small employee and employer payroll contributions.
- Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the New Parents Act in the Senate. Representatives Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) introduced companion legislation in the House. The plan would allow workers to fund parental leave with their Social Security benefits.
Importantly, the FAMILY Act covers self-employed people. “If you think about the startup phase of a company, these entrepreneurs, as well everyone, would be covered,” said Shabo. “This allows people to take risks and switch jobs. It functions as a portable benefit, which means that people can seize the opportunities that they see for themselves and also provide protection for lower-income workers whom you know are likely not to be offered benefits through their employer.” New parents make up just 21% of the users of the FAMILY Act. Current law also covers leave for a medical issue for yourself or family member.
Small business owners want paid leave. They do not have the resources to offer robust benefits, like paid family and medical leave, which puts them at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting and retaining employees. Nearly three in four (70%) support the FAMILY Act, according to a poll conducted on behalf of Small Business Majority and Center for American Progress.
In the interim, states and municipalities are filling the national void. Fifty municipalities have paid leave for their employees. By 2022, seven states and the District of Columbia will provide paid leave for people who live in their jurisdiction. “This is important because it normalizes the idea of family and medical leave,” said Shabo. However, “for example, in California, policies may not apply to smaller companies with fewer than 50 employees,” said Simard. Policies may offer job protection but not salary replacement.
“Family leave policies solves only part of the equation of early-cost childcare,” said Simard. The limited supply of quality and affordable childcare also needs to be addressed.
How will you ensure that you and your employees will get paid leave that meets your needs?