The Paternity Leave Trend

Last year, I got to take two months off for paid “paternity leave,” per my previous firm’s policy. It was great!

At my new firm, we have a two week only paternity leave program, which shows me the wide disparity (in law firms at least) in paternity leave policies. Under U.S. Law, employers must allow fathers 12 weeks of UNPAID paternity leave, but I do not think there is any law requiring paid paternity leave, so if your firm/company offers it, it can be a great benefit. I remember when each of my first three children were born, I took a couple of days off, but that was all I could. I have been able to take off one or two months for each of the others, however, which has been a LIFESAVER.

What kind of paternity leave options do any of the readers of this blog have? Should we in the United States mandate a more robust paternity leave? Why or why not?

See this chart (from Wikipedia) of paternity leave options mandated by law across the world…

32 Responses to The Paternity Leave Trend

  1. Sam B says:

    I don’t know what my current job’s paternity leave policy is. When my first daughter was born, four years ago, the New York law firm I worked for offered two weeks of paid paternity leave. A year and a half ago, when my second was born, the same firm gave me four weeks paid paternity leave. Of course, 18 months ago was still pre-utter collapse, and only a couple people I knew took the whole four weeks, so, while I assume it still offers four weeks, I don’t know what the actual time people take is these days.

  2. esodhiambo says:

    Dude–teachers don’t even get paid MATERNITY leave. No matter what kind of birth/recovery/nursing I am about to get into, it is on my dime. Every second of it.

    • Jordan F. says:

      That’s horrible! I am so sorry to hear that. Is that true for teachers in every school district and/or state, or just where you live?

      • esodhiambo says:

        Every school system in every state I have worked in has had no paid maternity leave. Of course, we have family leave–but it is unpaid. My son was born in November last school year and I took three months off–I used all my sick leave (10 days) and then was basically unemployed for 3 months. So my full-time job actually only employed and paid me for 7 months of the year.

        This is why an inordinate number of teachers’ babies are born in June.

  3. John Mansfield says:

    What were you spending your time doing during the second month of a two-month paternity leave? Anything different from what you would be doing during the fifth month of a five-month paternity leave?

    • Jordan F. says:

      The first time I took paternity leave, I took 2 weeks (out of 4 available) to shuttle the other three kids around, cook meals, clean house, etc., etc. while my wife recovered from child birth and bonded with the baby.

      The second time I took paternity leave (last year) I took the full two months and needed every second of it- here’s why: we had twins. With four other children to get clothed, fed, shuttled to school and other activities, etc., my wife really needed extra hands during the first couple of months. Unfortunately, both of our mothers and fathers work full time and could not take time off to come help. It was a real blessing for us that I could stay home and “hold down the fort” while my wife had tag-teaming nursing twins and was so unbearably tired. So, during the second month of that paternity leave, I was extremely busy keeping the house in shape- any stay-at-home mom will tell you that is a full-time job in and of itself. My wife was not physically able to do a lot and she was so tired!!

  4. SilverRain says:

    I agree. You’re lucky to get any kind of paternity leave. My maternity leave both times was a combination of paid time off and short term disability benefits. Taking a great deal of time off for paternity leave is a little excessive anyways, in my opinion, since maternity leave is really more for physical recovery than bonding time, anyways.

    Of course, there is always the Kindergeld option, but I think it utterly ill-advised in America.

  5. Peter LLC says:

    Maternity leave is a statutory benefit for everyone in my neck of the woods.

    More or less mandatory maternity leave for the mother begins 8 weeks before the due date and ends 8 weeks after birth. The parents may continue to take maternity leave on a rotating basis (up to two shift changes, with a shift lasting at least two months) until the child’s second birthday.

    It’s technically unpaid as the employer isn’t paying your salary, but the state kicks down up to $2800/month for the first year or less for up to three years to make it worth your while.

  6. Peter LLC says:

    there is always the Kindergeld option, but I think it utterly ill-advised in America.

    Why is that?

  7. Peter says:

    When my youngest was born I worked for the state trial courts, and I think I may have gotten some paternity leave. But we were in the middle of trial and I didn’t even think about taking more than two days off work. The HR department probably would have been more generous than that, but the judge wasn’t. He never had children and never saw any reason to accommodate people who did.

    • Jordan F. says:

      That’s how it was with my first three children. Only 1 or 2 days off, tops. But, I am not sure that I would have NEEDED paternity leave for the first few. Where it has come in handy is later, when there are a bunch of other kids who need things that the new mother cannot provide because she is tired and somewhat incapacitated.

  8. Jordan F. says:

    IS there actually a paternity leave trend that anyone else besides me has noticed? Growing up, I had never heard of such a thing.

  9. Jenna says:

    My husband has some sort of a paternity leave, I think, but he never looked into it. He just used 2 weeks of accumulated sick time and vacation days to take some paid time off when we had our babies. I was fortunate that my mother-in-law was able to come out and help me also for one week each time, so I had 3 weeks of help after the birth of each baby. Except the first. I did have help, but didn’t need it right away, as he was in the hospital for a couple weeks.

  10. KFITZ says:

    We get three weeks to be used anytime within the first year. It gave the firm flexibility to mandate I still meet specific client deadlines, without me feeling completely screwed over.

  11. John Mansfield says:

    My father never had paid time off. If he took a week off to visit relatives and swim at the beach, or to lie in bed sick, that was a week without pay. In many ways that seems a preferrable system. His employer bought the hours my father gave him, and the hours he kept for himself were his own concern. Ultimately, all these gifts of time off have to balance out the same way my father did for himself. There isn’t some fund in the sky that showers down loose cash when a child is born or a worker falls ill.

  12. jks says:

    Showing up to care for a new mom and baby and family is one of those invisible tasks that women often do. My mother came each time and she was always so helpful. My husband never had paternity leave. He usually took a couple/few days vacation.
    So my mother being a SAHM/housewife continued to make a difference in my life even after I left home. She could come for 2 weeks to help me out. Often when I have friends who are on bedrest for pregnancy there is a mom or mom-in-law who comes to help out for a while.

  13. qui says:

    We get three weeks to be used anytime within the first year. It gave the firm flexibility to mandate I still meet specific client deadlines, without me feeling completely screwed over.

  14. john f. says:

    John M., how in the world is that a preferrable system? Isn’t it preferrable for employers to treat their employees with dignity and respect?

    Paternity leave is an improvement over the old way of doing things. It is difficult to see how that is not the case.

  15. Peter LLC says:

    There isn’t some fund in the sky that showers down loose cash when a child is born

    Are you sure about that? The IRS seems to think it comes to about $3,650 per head.

  16. jks says:

    Peter, you can deduct $3,650 per child/person, which means you get a percentage of that (for me 15%) as the tax break, plus $1,000 credit per child.

  17. John Mansfield says:

    John F., it’s a preferrable and more respectful system because it deals with the employee as an autonomous being who makes his own decisions instead of as a wholly bought slave to be cared for in return for his asking “Mother, may I?” whenever he decides there is something he needs to spend some time doing that takes precedence over economic production for the employer.

  18. john f. says:

    John M., not so. By your logic, we should return to the days of child labor in Victorian cotton mills and mines.

    Paternity leave in some businesses stands for those businesses recognizing the bargaining power of individuals in the job market and competing to offer people better compensation and benefits packages than competitors.

    There is a complete logical disconnect in speaking about someone being an autonomous individual and working in a firm that offers paternity leave or other benefits as being mutually exclusive such that a return to the economic dark ages could seem desirable. Working in a firm that offers benefits such as paternity leave in no way reduces an individual’s autonomy. One is still responsible for one’s time and must plan in things like vacation. Two weeks of paid vacation might seem like slavery to you but give me six.

  19. Peter LLC says:


    Right. The tax code cuts parents a break for having children, though I realize at the expense of others and not truly from a fund in the sky.

    Strangely, however, the parents I know are happy to apply the deduction and take the credit, only to send their children to public schools without batting an eye at the disparity between the costs involved and their own contribution.

    I can only conclude that at some point American society determined that having kids was a net gain and worth subsizding. Given the overall costs that non-working children impose on 21st century America, I’m a little surprised that anyone would draw the line at a couple of weeks of p/maternity leave.

  20. jks says:

    Public school is a benefit provided to all CHILDREN in the country, not a benefit provided to the PARENTS. I wish people would see the difference. Childless US adults might remember that they were given the opportunity of free public education themselves. It is a fair enough system.

    Taxes are similar. Each adult gets to not pay taxes on the first $3650 he/she earns, so our country has determined that is how much each person gets to keep and not be taxed on by the federal government. Children are people too.
    I actually prefer the child tax credit because it gives the “break” equally rather than a different percentage based on tax rate, or leaves out SAHMs the way the dependent care credit does.

  21. John Mansfield says:

    John F., if I get two weeks paid vacation, then my employer is paying me over 52 weeks for 50 weeks of work. Likewise, with six weeks paid vacation, then I am performing 46 weeks of work, the compensation for which will be distributed over 52 weeks. The total pay should be no different if I am only paid for the weeks I am working since my production is no different. Having paid vacation, though, makes the employer much more involved in whether I choose to take three weeks of vacation or seven in a way that he wouldn’t be if I were only paid for time on the job.

    • Jordan F. says:

      John M.

      I tend to be stoic like you in this way. With my first three kids, I took maybe two days off – unpaid. Still, I can’t help but see my paid paternity leave with these last three as having been a great blessing to my family with a job that otherwise takes me away from them between 2200-2600 hours a year, every year. Do I think government ought to mandate paid paternity leave? No. But I do think that private companies offering it of their own accord as one of their “benefits” poses no problem at all- it is a way for them to compete for talent, along with pay and other unique benefits.

  22. Kim Siever says:

    In Alberta, where I live, we are legally entitled to unpaid paternity leave. My employer offers only that. I use my vacation time when my children are born.

    • Jordan F. says:

      That is also the case with many employers here in the USA- just allow minimum unpaid legal requirement. Nothing wrong with that, per se, but in a competitive environment paternity leave is a nice perk that employers can offer to help entice talent. I, for one, am glad some employers recognize that.

    • Glenn Smith says:

      As an Alberta employer, my staff can take up to 12 months parental leave, father and mother combined, with 2/3 salary paid via federal Employment Insurance. Usually, only the mother takes parental leave for the full time. The employer MUST place the mother in the same or an equal position when she returns to work.

    • Glenn Smith says:

      Kim, if your employer is not being fair with you, refer them to:
      Alberta Maternity?Parental Leave Standards


      Canada Employment Insurance Maternity Benefits

      I was wrong in my first post. The rate is 55%, up $457.00/week.

  23. Peter LLC says:

    Public school is a benefit provided to all CHILDREN in the country, not a benefit provided to the PARENTS. I wish people would see the difference.

    I suspect this is a distinction without a difference as a well-educated populace benefits the society at large.

    Having paid vacation, though, makes the employer much more involved in whether I choose to take three weeks of vacation or seven in a way that he wouldn’t be if I were only paid for time on the job.

    Maybe in theory, but in my experience working for an Asian firm in Western Europe where the general approach to work could not be more different, my employer would simply give us zero time off if it didn’t have to. Unpaid vacation is still vacation and there will be none of that if your services are required.

    That said, they still fired the last colleague who went on maternity leave, and a firm from the same country recently engaged a lawyer to see how they could fire an employee who was in a coma. In this country you apparently have to be conscious when you receive notice. How inconvenient these legal requirements can be.

  24. john f. says:

    There is no lack of employers willing to do horrible things to their employees. Good thing other employers act more tolerably toward the people who make their business possible.

    Absent appropriate regulation of the market, I have no doubt we’d still have no lack of employers more than happy to have six year olds crawling about in factories with no heating using their little fingers to free up machinery in 15 hour work days with no breaks! Statutory maternity or paternity leave are further steps in the same types of humane regulation that ended child labor and myriad other abuses that employers acting purely out of self-interest are too happy to perpetrate.

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