What happens when Dad stays home?
With more working couples sharing domestic responsibilities, a growing number of dads are opting to take time off when their baby is born. In 2004, California became the first state to offer paid family leave (with dads getting as much as six weeks off at partial pay). Seven percent of new fathers now receive paid paternal leave, according to government statistics.
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, companies with 50 or more workers are required to give both men and women up to 12 weeks’ unpaid leave to care for a newborn. While many offer women paid maternity leave, only 13% of companies in the U.S. offer paid paternity leave, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). So dads typically use their vacation time; as a result, their absence isn’t officially considered paternity leave. James Levine, former director of the Fatherhood Project at the Families and Work Institute, in New York City, calls it “underground leave.”
“Why shouldn’t the father be home?” says Richard Miller who took two weeks of vacation time when his daughter, Olivia, was born. “A parent should be with a new baby. That shouldn’t be gender-specific.”
More employers seem to share that sentiment. Of 3,000 men and women surveyed by the Families and Work Institute, 80 percent said they thought men could take paternity leave without endangering their career. And a growing number of companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer Inc. and Eli Lilly and Company, are beginning to offer paid paternity leave.