Paternity Leave in the United States

While women in the United States can usually expect to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave following the birth of a baby, new dads often don’t have the same luxury. Although a growing number of men report wanting to stay at home with newborns and certain employers may be willing to offer new fathers a few weeks off, paid and unpaid paternity leave is still a rarity in the United States. In fact, it’s the lone developed nation where paid time off isn’t guaranteed, even to new mothers.

The Importance of Paternity Leave

For an increasing number of young men, paternity leave isn’t just an excuse to miss work for a few weeks. Fathers who take time off to be with a newborn are able to bond with them at an extremely important time. Those who do take paternity leave have shown to be more involved in childcare, cooking, transportation, and after school activities later on down the road. Paternity leave facilitates emotional buy-in and involvement as soon as the new baby arrives.

Attitudes Toward Paternity Leave in the US

Although just 10 to 15 percent of white-collar employers in the U.S. offer paid leave for new fathers, your boss and business may not be the only things preventing you from staying at home with your newborn. Many men report a workforce stigma around paternity leave, saying there is an unspoken standard that taking more than a week off to care for a baby is inappropriate. In fact, even when an employer is willing to offer generous paid leave to new fathers, a staggering 64% of men still only took between one and two weeks to be home with their newborns.

A Shift in Perception

The youngest generation of fathers is slowly starting to change the way that employers look at paternity leave. Millennials place more importance on work-life balance than generations before them, forcing employers to adapt to stay competitive. In fact, some like Enrst & Young have even begun to offer six weeks of paid leave to fathers who are the primary caregiver. Even so, this continues to be the exception rather than the rule. Paternity leave in the U.S. is still a work in process.