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Running head: The value of maternity and paternity leave 1

The Value of Maternity and Paternity Leave

The value of maternity and paternity leave

The Value of Maternity and Paternity Leave


Maternity and paternity leave around the world vary greatly. Developed economies
routinely have greater benefits, especially for mothers, then developing or third world countries
(Addati, Cassierer, & Gilchrist, 2014). Maternity leave is routinely longer and pays more benefits
then paternity leave. Though paternity leave continues to increase in modern labor laws, there is
far less emphasis on equalizing the benefits between mother and father. This stance exudes the
old stereotype of the father being the bread-winner of the family and lacking in caregiver
duties.
Parental Leave in the World
Throughout the world, nations have adopted many different standards in relation to
maternity and paternity leave. Some nations offer zero benefits to either father or mother, many
offer state mandated benefits to the mother only, and a growing number offer both paternity and
maternity benefits. In an International Labour Organization (ILO) report by Addati et al. (2014),
a review of maternity benefits was documented. The years between 1994 and 2013 saw an
increase from 38% to 51% of nations offering at least fourteen weeks of maternity leave, the
ILOs minimum standard. Among developed economies, 95% meet ILOs standard and 5%
offered twelve to thirteen weeks.
Less focus and regulation has been placed on paternity leave: no ILO standard exists
dealing specifically with paternity leave (Addati et al., 2014, p. 52). This is contrary to the
modern desire to place more family duties on the father of a household. The increased
responsibilities of the father move in tandem with the fact that the modern family in the
developed countries are dual income (Huerta et al., 2013). This reduces the ability of the mother
to take the traditional caregiver to the household. Huerta et al. (2013) found evidence that fathers

The value of maternity and paternity leave

do have a desire to provide more care for children and are often required to take other forms of
leave during the months after childbirth to include regular leave, non-paid leave, and sick leave.
Parental Leave in the United States
In the United States, the Department of Labor (DOL) requires companies to provide up to
twelve weeks of unpaid medical leave (Wages, 2015). This ensures, by law, that everyone has an
equal chance to take time to be with their newborn and does not favor one sex or the other, on the
surface. According to Huerta et al. (2013), on average the woman is statistically more likely to
take unpaid leave, reduce work hours, or quit then the man is for caregiving because the man
usually is the higher earner. According to a White House study, 40% of women and 38% percent
of men had paid leave for childbirth (The Economics, 2014). This study also highlighted the
major disparity between available leave time between high and low income workers as well as
racial differences (The Economics, 2014).
Where everyone is afforded the ability, in the United States, to take twelve weeks of
unpaid leave, most do not take full advantage of it out of necessity. In Denmark, which has very
gracious parental leave policy set by law (with paid leave offered), 90% of fathers took two or
more weeks of leave after childbirth compared to 33% in the United States (Huerta et al., 2013).
This is why laws need to be made, not trust in corporations, to ensure practical labor issues are
enforced. California and two other states have already mandated family leave and a survey found
that positive or no noticeable effect on profitability, turnover, and morale occurred (The
Economics, 2014). Studies have documented that early bonding time between father and child
correlates with an increase of household responsibilities the father takes which provides a more
stable environment for mothers to have a successful career (Huerta et al., 2013).

The value of maternity and paternity leave

Challenges to Parental Leave Benefits


With the increase awareness of equal opportunity rights and labor laws, men have
recently been challenging the difference their companies offer in parental leave. Josh Levs, a
journalist working for CNN, was in a dispute with Turner Broadcasting, which owned CNN. Mr.
Levs daughter was born in 2013 five weeks premature. During this time, CNN offered 10
weeks of paid leave to biological mothers and the same amount to parents of either gender who
adopted children or who relied on surrogates (Scheiber, 2015). Mr. Levs argument that
biological fathers were discriminated against, especially with the equal time parents undergoing
adoptions or surrogacies received. Ultimately, CNN and Time Warner settled outside of court,
possibly to prevent a negative case precedent set against them and other companies. Time Warner
also agreed to reimburse paid leave to other fathers before January 2015 and also changed their
policy to six weeks of parental leave to mothers and fathers (Sheiber, 2015).
Changes to Parental Leave in the United States
The best method of parental leave may be a hybrid form and less focus on the maternity
and paternity side. The United Kingdom started a new leave policy for new parents. Both parents
will get their standard leave, but have 37 weeks of leave that can be shared between the two
(Peachey, 2015). This gives the mother sufficient time to recover from childbirth and the ability
for the father to help right after. This allows the parents the choice to decide how to split up the
parental time. It will be difficult to adopt such a system in the United States because:
businesses may be reluctant to experiment with new initiatives and thus lack a full understanding
of the lung-run benefits, and instead focus on short-run cost-saving measures (The Economics,
p. 18, 2014).

The value of maternity and paternity leave

The positive near-term and long-term benefits of parental leave is well documented.
(Huerta et al., 2013). The increase in parental leave reported by the ILO will continue to rise as
additional studies and research delve into the benefits it provides (Addati et al., 2014). This will
be necessary for the bonding time between father and child and the increase role of the father in
childrearing (Addati et al., 2014). Of the developed countries, the United States lags behind in
this worker right, not even guaranteeing the mother paid maternity leave (Huerta et al., 2013).
The United States will continue to slowly add on to parental leave, probably state by state at first,
until potentially the DOL establishes further guidance for the whole country.

The value of maternity and paternity leave

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References

Addati, L., Cassirer, N., & Gilchrist, K. (2014). Maternity and Paternity at Work: Law and
Practice across the World. Geneva: International Labour Office.
Huerta, M., Adema, W., Baxter, J., Han, W., Lausten, M., Lee, R., & Waldfogel, J., (2013).
Fathers' Leave, Fathers' Involvement and Child Development: Are They Related?
Evidence from Four OECD Countries. Paris: OECD Publishing.
Scheiber, N. (2015, September 15). Attitudes Shift on Paid Leave: Dads Sue, Too. New York
Times: Business Day. Retrieved from
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/16/business/attitudes-shift-on-paid-leave-dads-suetoo.html
Peachey, K. (2015, April 5). How the UKs new rules on parental leave work. BBC News.
Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32130481
The Economics of Paid and Unpaid Leave. (2014). The Council of Economic Advisers.
Retrieved from
https://www.whitehouse.gove/sites/default/files/docs/leave_report_final.pdf
Wage and Hour Division (WHD). (2015, February 23). Department of Labor. Retrieved
November 22, 2015, from http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/