Children thrive best when parents share their care. Co-parenting, when dad is not only a source of parental love, but also a consistent presence, and a partner in the joint enterprise of co-parenting, children benefit immensely from it.

The positive impact of such early father-child bonding is not only restricted to the early years and in fact, according to a paper published in 2019, it was also found that children who spent initial months bonding with their fathers, feel closer to them even after 9 years. So, how do the dads benefit from availing paternity leaves? 

Creating opportunities for co-parenting- the advantages of paternity leave

  • Dads who take paternity leave often have better relationships with their partners. This is truer when both parents can take co-parenting leave at the same time. Men get to engage with their partners on how to become successful parents. In research on co-parenting, the sociologists, Dr. Richard Petts, Ball State University, and Dr. Chris Knoester, Ohio State University, found that even relatively short periods of paternity leave caused couples’ divorce risk to drop. It remained significantly lower for as many as six years to come, even as their children reached school age.
  • Skin contact and other physical interactions. Holding the baby, feeding it, burping, diaper-changing, talking, and singing- strengthen the father-child bond and make babies healthier, both physically and emotionally. Later on in life, this bonding can create a positive impact on the child’s cognitive development, their academic success, and their relationship with their father.
  • Fatherhood expert and dad of three, Mr. Armin Brott asserts that kids whose dads took paternity leave have been shown to become more social as they grow up, perform better in school and even have higher IQs compared to their peers. He believes, the earlier that dads get involved in actively taking care of their kids, the more involved they will be in the long run.
  • It immensely builds up the dad’s confidence. This hands-on Co-parenting experience eases him in front of his child, lends him enough time to create a strong bond, and helps him tremendously, in his duty of parenting the child in his/her formative years.
  • Dads are happier at work, too. It is often seen that many men worry that requesting family leave time will hurt their careers. But research by Mr. Brad Harrington, Executive Director of the Boston College Center for Work & Family, over the past decade actually suggests the opposite. Men who take paternity leave, report greater levels of satisfaction with their jobs and careers. Harrington also found that paternity/parental leave builds employee loyalty and plays an integral role in attracting and retaining talent. 3/4th of the employees said they’re more likely to stay with their current employer because of its parental leave policy, and 90% of managers reported parental leave is an important tool for employee retention and recruitment.
  • It supports gender equality in the workplace- The responsibility of parenting must not be confined to one gender, nor should a company’s parental leave benefits. They must include paternity leave. From an organizational perspective, it’s great to celebrate women and to think of ways to help women progress and this will only help the company in the long run by being able to recruit and retain promising female employees and would also help her male colleagues as she would supposedly be more productive.

Nordic countries showing us the way 

The Nordic countries have been pioneers in introducing and promoting fathers’ parental rights both at the time of childbirth and while taking full responsibility for child care when the mother returns to her job. Fathers’ right to paternity leave and parental leave, have been justified to promote both early father-child bonding and gender equality in the family and at the workplace. 

Finland now plans to give all parents the same parental leave, in an attempt to allow fathers to spend more time with their children. The paid allowance will increase to a combined total of 14 months, which works out as 164 days per parent. 

Sweden has Europe’s most generous system of parental leave with 240 days for each parent after a baby’s birth. Under the current system in Finland, maternity leave is 4.2 months, while fathers are entitled to 2.2 months leave until the child turns two. 

On top of that, another six months’ parental leave can be shared between the two. However, on average, only 1 in 4 fathers take what they are given. According to the new plan, each parent would receive 6.6 months’ leave and pregnant women would get an additional month’s allowance. Parents would also be allowed to transfer 69 days of their entitled leave. Single parents, on the other hand, would be allowed to use both allowances.

In Norway, mothers can take 49 weeks at full pay or 59 weeks at 80% pay, and fathers can take between zero and 10 weeks depending on their wives’ income. Together, parents can receive an additional 46 weeks at 100% pay or 56 weeks at 80% pay.

Fathers in Denmark get a 2-weeks leave after the birth of their child and the mother and father can share a further 32 weeks between them.

Iceland allows 3 months of paternity as well as maternity leave. Additionally, another 3 months of leave can be shared by the parents.

Co-parenting

The EU is also heading that way, with a 2019 directive giving its member states 3 years to provide each parent with at least four months’ leave, including two months that cannot be transferred. Portugal already has a gender-neutral system, with 120 days paid-leave at 100% pay and another optional 30 days at 80% pay. 

What’s up with the world’s oldest and largest democracies?

Most U.S. companies don’t offer paid paternity leave, and 70% of fathers who take it are back to work in just ten days or less, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Many men also talk about a stigma at work, particularly among their male colleagues – that taking time off to care for their child looks like they are not fully committed to their job.

In India also, there is no independent legislation to govern the laws of paternity leave. The only provision that is available applies for state and central government employees, which provide 15 days of paternity leave, whereas mothers are provided 182 days of maternity leave. 

Although there is no law governing paternity leave in the private sector, some MNCs are taking it seriously.

Here are some examples:

  1. Zomato: On June 3, 2019, Zomato announced that it’s going to offer 26 weeks of paid parental leave for both men and women. This policy also applies to surrogate parents, adoptive parents, and same-sex couples.
  2. IKEA: IKEA provides 6 months’ maternity as well as paternity leaves but the leave can be availed by the male employee only when his wife rejoins her work. This policy applies to surrogates, single-parents, and adoptive parents.
  3. Amazon: Amazon allows a 6-week paternity leave. However, it also offers two unique plans: firstly there’s this “Leave share plan” which enables sharing parental leave with the spouse who is not an employee at Amazon and whose employer does not grant paid parental leave, and secondly there’s this “Ramp Back plan” which provides a flexible schedule for a period of 8 weeks and reduced work-hours. 
  4. Novartis: Novartis grants 26 weeks of paid parental leave to both parents of a new-born child through birth, adoption, or surrogacy.

Many other companies like Netflix, Facebook, Google, Reddit, etc. are also providing similar parental leave benefits in India.                                                                 

When it comes to India, we think there is an urgent need to take a cue from these MNCs and pass an independent Union Legislation which can regulate paternity leave in all sectors. The legislation should be made applicable even to cases of surrogacy and adoption. The allotment of the number of days for paternity leave should be at least 75% of the number of days for maternity leave.

It is extremely important to formulate policies that remove the social stigma that only men are the breadwinners and are incapable of looking after their child. Equitable parental leave only helps in breaking the stereotypical roles of males and females. Thus, it is in the interest of the Nation, that we must work towards breaking these stereotypes and promoting co-parenting by enabling more men to take paternity leaves. Here’s looking forward to a more inclusive world