Putting Paternity Leave on Equal Footing With Maternity Leave

When the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 went into effect, it outlined the necessity for employers who employ more than fifty employees to offer those employees leave after the event of a new child’s birth. Although the law does not require the companies to offer paid leave, many companies, such as Ernst and Young, do so by choice. Ernst and Young is also different in another way. Not only do they offer maternity leave, but paternity leave as well. This is still a fairly new tradition for many large companies.

Traditionally, women are expected to care for newborn children, and therefore they are given the leave benefits, whether paid or unpaid. However, new studies are showing how very important it is for fathers to have maximum time with their newly born children as well.

One of the reasons that many companies simply ignore the issue of paternity leave is because there is a very small fraction of men who would stand up and say, “My family is more important than work.” Few men insist on having this benefit.

Scott Coltrane, a sociologist who studies fatherhood at the University of Oregon, asserts that with the ever changing economic dynamics in most families, in which women are taking on more of a breadwinner role, it should not be long before companies across the board will need to change their long held policies to reflect the ever changing needs of families.

The challenge, however, does not just lie in encouraging companies to offer paternity leave, but it also lies in convincing men to take advantage of it. Despite social changes in family roles, many men still feel uncomfortable being the primary care giver for young children, and job demands provide a great excuse to shuffle these responsibilities to someone else.

Companies that don’t seem to have issues with these changes predominately tend to be companies that also cater to and accommodate same sex marriages. Because roles are not regimented in a same sex household, there is often little question that the care of a new child will be equally shared among both partners. In this respect, couples and companies alike could learn a thing or two.

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