The annual June Father's day shopping binge is at its zenith. Stores are touting the latest gizmos and geegaws, and everybody loves Dad. All except corporate America, that is. Just count the number of companies giving paid leave to men with newborns. While some employers offer time off with pay to new moms (and most don't), not many give dads the same benefit. When they do, it's almost always less time. Only 12 companies on Working Mother magazine's 100 Best list give equal time to dads and moms alike, and for five of those it's a stingy one week.
Some of the big tech companies seem to be going further than those on the Working Mother list. Google offers five months to moms and seven weeks to dads. The company jumped up the time six years ago to stem the loss of female workers, which was double that of men. (It worked -- attrition dropped by 50 percent). Possibly in an attempt to burnish its image after criticism for doing away with its work-from-home policy, Yahoo recently doubled moms' time off to 16 weeks, but gives new dads only half that much.
All this is not to say new mothers have it made. While new parents in every other industrialized country on the planet get a paid break, usually mandated by law, the vast majority of employers in the good ol' U S of A offer zero paid leave for moms or dads. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, a measly 12 percent of employees in the United States have access to paid leave for any care of family members, including newborns and adopted children.
Will Congress act? Not likely. The majority of the House thinks women should stay home and men need more guns, not more time with kids.
We know it takes women a couple of weeks to recover physically from childbirth, so when paid leave is offered, some difference makes sense. But companies need to give men a better break. Moms can use the help, and dads need time with the new kid too.
If our lawmakers ever got serious about mandating paid maternity and paternity leave, some would undoubtedly argue that it would be unfair to non-parents and older workers. But that's a red herring. If they really cared about workers, they'd give everybody some paid time for family caregiving, including aging parents, spouses, or same-sex partners. For smaller companies that truly can't afford it, there could be other solutions besides paid time off. How about some work from home for a few weeks?
So forget the neckties, golf clubs and the latest electronic gadgets. Our country should give dads something they can really use -- paid leave from work to care for kids when they need it. A gift to dads, a gift to families, and a benefit to employers who want to keep their best talent.
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