Nearly all fathers want to be there when a new child comes into their life. But, far too often, work and financial worry can act as barriers to fathers being as involved as they would want to be. Now, new changes in California laws are making it more possible for dads to be there.
Study after study has found a positive impact on parents, children, families, and the economy when fathers are able to take parental leave. Fathers who take paternity leave are more likely to be actively engaged in their child’s care nine months after birth, more likely to read to their children at age 3, and a father’s engagement in their children’s care has shown to have lasting effects on the development of children, including greater achievement on assessments for language skills, cognition, and social development. Moreover, when men take leave they become more confident, active caregivers throughout their child’s life, lessening the burden on mom. Moms also do better at work when dads are able to take leave. One study showed that for every month a father took leave, moms increase their take-home pay by nearly 7 percent.
A new study by Promundo and Dove Men+Care, which surveyed 1,714 men and women ages 25 to 45, found that men wanted to be just as involved in their child’s life as women. Yet, men expressed greater worry about the ability to provide for their family while on leave, or having a job to return to after leave, which makes sense given the majority of Americans have no access to unpaid leave, let alone paid leave, particularly parents who are paid low wages.
But, this past year California has taken the lead to break down these barriers by ensuring more fathers (and mothers) can afford to take leave without risking their families’ economic security. Governor Brown signed the New Parent Leave Act, which expanded job-protected bonding leave to 2.7 million more Californians who work for companies with 20 – 49 employees. Additionally, California’s Paid Family Leave program now provides most eligible parents with 60% of their normal weekly wages (up from 55%) for up to 6 weeks while they take time off to bond with a new child. The lowest income earners can receive 70%. Moreover, a new law in San Francisco requires employers to supplement the state Paid Family Leave benefits so employees receive 100% of their pay, up to a cap. And, early results from a UC Berkeley study of the San Francisco law show that San Francisco’s 100% paid family leave is having an impact – there has been a 28% increase in men taking bonding leave in San Francisco (as compared to 3-9% increases elsewhere in the state).
So, this Father’s Day let’s celebrate our progress, take stock of strategies that work, and keep up the fight to ensure all fathers can be there for the moments that matter.
Jenna Gerry is a Staff Attorney in the Work & Family Program at Legal Aid at Work. Her work focuses on the employment rights of pregnant and new parents, caregivers, and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. She provides direct representation, participates in legislative advocacy to expand family-friendly workplace polices and engages in community education.
About Legal Aid at Work
Legal Aid at Work is a nonprofit legal services organization that has been assisting low-income, working families for more than 100 years. Its programs conduct outreach, provide direct legal services to thousands of people each year, engage in litigation when necessary, and advocate for policies that strengthen the rights of low-income people. More information about Legal Aid at Work can be found at www.legalaidatwork.org.