Parental leave can be financed a number of different ways, but in the US it’s primarily sourced by social insurance. In this job security model, employees and taxpayers contribute to a public fund that allows employers to hold a position while one of their workers takes time off to attend to a newborn child or a sick family member. As of 2018, American employees are typically allotted up to six weeks of paid time off, staffed by 60% to 70% of said employee’s weekly salary. Although the benefits of parental leave are well documented, many US men opt not to utilize it.

I think there might be this lingering impression that time off only applies to the physical strains associated with a newborn even though the majority of lawmakers that want to establish policies in favor of parental leave also take the emotional ramifications into account. For instance, did you know that men that take paternity leave are less likely to get divorced? Or that 89% of companies that endorse paternal leave report that new dads come back to work more engaged and productive? Even though nearly 90% of American Fathers believe it’s important for a company to provide paid paternity leave, a considerable number of men that work at companies that offer such are still afraid they’ll lose their job if they take advantage of it.  This isn’t an unsound position considering broader statistics.

Globally, only 26% of employers encourage fathers to take time off after having a baby, and the US is the only developed nation without actual legislation concerning the matter. As of 2019, there are only four states that have taken legislative initiative on behalf of working dads, namely, New York, New Jersey, California, and Rhode Island.

A new proposition

Parental leave is one of the few key issues that routinely garners bipartisan support every election season. Recently, Reddit founder, Alexis Ohanian, sat down with HRDive to discuss his own run-in with the policy irresolution surrounding the issue.

“As a nation, we pride ourselves so much on family values. This is such a clear way to walk the talk — it’s long overdue,” Ohanian told HRDive. “As an employer, I wanted to show to my employees and to the industry that this is important.”

After Ohanian’s wife, tennis star Serena Williams, suffered complications following a C-section, he all of a sudden obtained this privileged insight into how important parental paid time off is. As a result, he organized a campaign calling for an official paid parental leave law. The legions of fathers and public backers in support of Ohanian’s propitiation request a full six months of parental leave, complete with full wage replacement.  The specifics would continue to be ironed out on a state level like they are now, while a national law would ensure that firms at the very least adopt some kind of model to secure paid time off that doesn’t hinder productivity or annual earnings. Again, a social insurance method seems to be our best bet, considering the four states that have enacted such have, by and large, confirmed as much respectively.

“Legislation will prompt, guide and encourage employers to build generous paid family leave policies, providing “a floor to build off of,” Katie Bethell , who is the founder of one of the companies endorsing Ohanian’s motion, told HRDIVE. It’s “no surprise” to her that California, which is among the states that have passed paid family leave legislation, is home to businesses — like Ohanian’s Reddit, for example — that put forth paid leave benefits that go beyond what is mandated.

This article was originally published on The Ladders.

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