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Does Parental Leave Policies in Different Countries Effectively Retain Newly-Being-Parenthood Workers?

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Leave available equally to mothers and fathers, either as: (i) a non-transferable individual right (i.e

both parents have an entitlement to an equal amount of leave); or (ii) an individual right that can be transferred to the other parent; or (iii) a family right that parents can divide between themselves as they choose. In some countries, Parental leave consists only of nontransferable individual entitlements; in other countries, it is an entirely family right; while in other countries, part of Parental leave is an individual right, the remainder a family right. It is generally understood to be a care measure, intended to give both parents an equal opportunity to spend time caring for a young child; it usually can only be taken after the end of Maternity leave.

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Although paid leave is often framed as an issue that matters to working women, paid parental leave is also critically important for fathers. Policies that ensure fathers have the support they need to prioritize their family responsibilities, while also meeting work demands, can significantly increase the personal and economic wellbeing of their families. Paternity leave – and especially longer leaves of several weeks or months – can promote parent-child bonding, improve outcomes for children, and even increase gender equity at home and at the workplace. Paid parental leave for fathers, as well as for mothers, provides a real advantage to working families. Despite these advantages, fathers still face economic and social barriers that keep them from taking longer paternity leaves, such as inadequate access to paid leave and outdated workplace norms about male breadwinners. Here in the United States where parental leave is already too rare, social and cultural biases along with gaps in policy make fathers even less able to access time away from work for their children. Paid paternity leave is less likely to be offered by employers than maternity leave, and may not always be taken even if offered

For two-dad families, and the increasing number of fathers who are serving as stay at home parents, addressing this unequal access and uptake is particularly important. Workers often face tension in balancing their roles as workers and parents, since there can be adverse consequences to prioritizing family over work or work over family. Empowering more dads with paid parental leave means they can achieve their professional goals and be supportive, nurturing fathers and partners.

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The fact that mothers are employed does not mean that they are at work. In most countries, mothers with infants are entitled to take paid job-protected leave to recover from the birth and care for the newborn, and many nations have extended parental leave rights to fathers (Moss & Deven, 1999; Kamerman, 2000). Although the U.S. was long an exception, both federal and state parental leave laws have recently been enacted. One intent of the federal and state laws is to provide mothers and fathers with the opportunity to take some time off work after the birth of a child, without the risk of job loss

Even the most generous of U.S. laws guarantee leave for a relatively short period (typically, less than 3 months), and the limited previous research does not conclusively indicate how such legislation has influenced the leave-taking of either mothers or fathers. Understanding how parental leave legislation affects employment and leave-taking is of more than academic interest. Parental (particularly maternity) leave has been viewed as an important mechanism for improving the job continuity of mothers – who would otherwise often be forced to terminate jobs in order to spend time with young children – and reducing the “family gap” in women’s wages. The estimated associations are small in absolute but large in relative terms – a parental leave law is predicted to increase the percentage of the birth month employed fathers spend on leave from 7 to 11 percent, representing approximately two extra days off work. Since only around half of men are covered and eligible under the FMLA, the increase associated with actually gaining leave rights would be approximately twice as large. As for women, we do not know the impact of this increased leave-taking for the well-being of fathers or their children. This certainly merits further research.

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Finally, most countries provide between three months and one year of full-time-equivalent paid leave; Sweden, the most generous of the countries examined, provides 40 weeks of full-time-equivalent paid leave

The United States is one of only two countries to offer no paid parental leave. Australia also offers no paid leave, but supports new parents with a substantial financial “baby bonus” regardless of whether they take parental leave.

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Moss P, Deven F, editors. Parental leave: progress or pitfall? Brussels: CBGS; 1999.

Hyde JS, Essex MJ, Horton F. Fathers and parental leave: Attitudes and experiences. Journal of Family Issues. 1993;14(4):616–638.

Jaumotte F. OECD Economic Studies No. 37. 2004. Labour force participation of women: empirical evidence on the role of policy and other determinants in OECD countries.

Johnson T. Current Population Reports. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau; 2008. Maternity leave and employment patterns of first-time mothers: 1961–2003; pp. 70–113.

Kamerman S. Parental leave policies: An essential ingredient in early childhood education and care policies. Social Policy Report. 2000;

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