A Happier Working Dad

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renee for news.jpgAny idea how Dad liked his gifts for Father’s Day? That new tie?  Newest men’s cologne? The newest power tool for home repairs? A Boston College report in a series called “The New Dad” suggests he would prefer something a little less conventional and more difficult to come by -- paid leave and flexible hours to spend more time with his family.


The report focuses primarily on the issue of paternity leave, as in a) who gets it, b) how is it used, and c) how important is it to working dads.  In fact, working fathers are ranking the importance of this type of benefit right up there with health and dental coverage.


Paternity leave is the term used for fathers who take a leave of absence from their employer for the purposes of staying at home with their young children for a period of time.  All employers do not offer paid paternity leave.  In fact, according to CAI's most recent Policies and Benefits Survey, 6% of employers offered paternity leave as a separate benefit, 72% offered it as per the FMLA requirements, and 22% offered no such benefit.  Only 5% of those that offer some form of paternity leave actually offer paid leave.


The commercialized Father’s Day is one day each year, but father’s are father’s each and every day. What can we as employers do to make dads happier in their workplace?


Create a Caring Culture -

Demonstrate your commitment to a work-life balance for all employees, regardless of sex.  A satisfactory ratio of work to life for an employee serves to reduce both personal and professional stress, resulting in more focus and more productivity while at work.  Such testimonies from happy employees can reduce turnover and aid in recruiting solid talent for your team.


Creating this culture begins with really listening to your employees.  Most people will talk about what is important to them, and you can learn a lot about the overall happiness of your employee and gain insight into what would make them happier, simply by taking a moment to sincerely listen.


Provide some amount of Paid Paternity Leave -

According to the research report, 89% of those surveyed ranked paid paternity leave as either important, very important or extremely important when evaluating their next job opportunity.  Eighty-six percent (86%) said they would only take paternity leave if it was offered as paid leave.  According to the U.S. Labor Department, only 1 in 8 jobs in the U.S. offer paid paternal leave.


Offer Employees Flexible Work Options -

For the past forty years most employers have offered flexible work options to working mothers returning from maternity leave. Telecommuting, additional sick-leave, part-time work options and shorter work weeks are examples of flexible work options offered to returning mothers for a period of time.  All that is necessary is to extend these same offerings to working fathers.


As with most things, the key is trust.  Trust in the employee to be working when they say they are, but are not in plain view.  This is a time when success should be measured by meeting a clear set of objectives, and not measured by a time clock.  By the same token, Dad has to be sure to get his job done, and demonstrate to his employer this flexibility will not affect productivity.


So what do Employer’s need to do?

Employers should review their parental leave policies.  Carefully distinguish between leave related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions that can be limited to women affected by these conditions. If you offer mothers “time for care and bonding” beyond physical recovery/disability time, then offer that “time for care and bonding” to fathers. Parental leave should be provided to similarly situation men and women on the same terms.  This does not obligate employers to offer parental leave at all, beyond the 12 weeks of unpaid leave under Family Medical Leave (FMLA) (unless you operate in a state where state law requires such, which is not required in North Carolina). EEOC’s logic behind these guidelines – dads have just as much at stake in bonding with their new child as do moms.


So consider paid Parental Leave policies as they:

  • Foster gender equality
  • Boost morale and invest your employees in your organization’s missions and values
  • Scream value of the employee and their families, contributing to positive work/life balance
  • Provide an undeniable recruitment tool for attracting new employees


Do you offer paid parental leave?  Paternity as well as maternity leave? Let us know your thoughts on this important issue by commenting below.



About the Boston College Fathers’ Paternity Leave Study.  We conducted an online survey to better understand fathers’ attitudes about paternity and parental leave and to learn more about their experiences in taking time off after the birth of their children. We collected data from 1,029 fathers who had at least one child under the age of 18. The survey was distributed by nine of our Center for Work & Family member companies as well as through social media and our CWF list of contacts. All in all, fathers from 286 different organizations participated in the survey – 58% of participants came from the nine member companies that included accounting firms, healthcare product organizations, insurance companies and one university. The remaining 42% worked at a wide variety of organizations. The large majority (91%) of the respondents came from the United States. As our international sample is small and is not representative of the various countries, we have chosen to focus on the U.S. respondents for the remainder of this section.