Shared parental leave is a win-win
In the UK, new rules about shared parental leave were introduced in April 2015 to encourage – or allow – dads to spend more time with their children. The Economist wrote last week that “giving new mothers a reasonable amount of time off work—the ILO recommends at least 14 weeks—increases women’s participation in the labour force”. However, overly generous maternity leave schemes can harm women’s ability to return to the workplace after extended periods at home.
Here is where paid paternity leave is a useful solution. New parents don’t need to take the difficult decision to leave their children in the care of strangers at a very early age but, at the same time, the mothers won’t need to carry the responsibility of child rearing alone at a cost to their careers.
It seems that paternity leave is a win-win. Fathers learn to become better parents and build a closer bond with their children taking a bigger role in bringing up their kids later in life, too. The children benefit by improving their cognitive skills compared to their peers whose dads did not take paternity leave. And mothers should benefit too by achieving better gender equality in the workplace. If more fathers take shared parental leave, it reduces the chances of employers discriminating against women on the basis that women are more likely than men to take time off to look after a baby.
Interestingly, as the rest of the world is moving toward a more gender-neutral position on child rearing, the United States is one of the 2 countries (the other is Papua New Guinea) that doesn’t offer any type of paid parental leave to mothers or fathers. Time to take heed and catch up with the rest of the world!