Paternity leave should no longer be frowned upon, but instead it should be welcomed and advocated by the government and companies in order to bring long-term benefits.
As more and more countries worldwide are embracing time off for new dads, many fathers remain to be held back from taking advantage of the paternity leave that they are eligible for.
In fact, the stigma of being ‘that guy’ at work who takes the maximum amount of leave haunts many dads. It’s not so much about the fear of getting fired, but the unspoken disapproval from peers and management that can come with a long leave.
In the UK, the number of dads taking paternity leave is actually declining. According to research published in July by the law firm EMW, just 31% of eligible new fathers used their leave in the past year.
That figure has now fallen for consecutive four years. As few as 2% of couples may use their “shared parental leave”, which is taken later, in the first year with your child.
That’s a shame, because dad taking time out with their new-borns bring plenty of benefits to both the kids and parents alike.
Children whose father took more leave than average scored better in IQ tests, according to research from Australia.
Research studies from the US also proved that men who take paternity leave are less likely to get divorced. The sociologists found that even relatively short periods of paternity leave caused couples’ divorce risk to drop and to remain significantly lower for as many as six years to come, even as their children reached school age.
In Norway, the “daddy quota” policy was introduced in 1993, offering weeks of leave that was earmarked only for fathers. By 1997, over 70% of eligible fathers were using it.
Sweden, on the other hand, see a growing number of “latte dads”, a term that describe youngish fathers carrying their babies in slings or hanging out with their toddlers.
They’re a direct result of the country’s parental-leave policy. The Swedish government says that parents of both sexes are entitled to 480 days (16 months) of paid parental leave at about 80% of their salary (with a cap), plus bonus days for twins, and they must share — Swedish dads must take at least some of those 16 months. The days don't expire until the child is 8 years old.
"These days, for Swedish dads, the decision is not 'Will I take time off to be with my child?' but 'How long will I take?' Most take three to nine months," Swedish dad Jonas Frid told Martin Daubney for The Australian.
Aside from policy change, pay is also pivotal. “In the UK, you get £148.68 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower, on paternity leave. In Estonia, the percentage of dads taking paternity leave almost quadrupled in a year after the country promised fathers on leave 100% of previous earnings.
Company culture also plays a role to drive the change – peers and managers’ views and behaviour have a strong impact over men’s decisions.
It is also important for firms to acknowledge the positive effect on both employees and employers as they help the workforce maintain a better work-life balance.