Employers are always looking for ways to improve the employee experience. We know for a fact that high job satisfaction leads to improved retention rates, which provides for a more stable workforce.
In recent years, companies have made changes to the types of benefits they offer, considering the different needs of younger generations. Yet one benefit that continues to be overlooked is parental leave.
While the federal government of Canada offers paid maternity leave through employment insurance, and many companies offer some form of parental leave coverage to coincide with this, there remains a failure to recognize the importance of paternity leave. But as we'll discuss in this blog post, the fight for gender equality includes better opportunities for parental leave.
Recent Changes to Maternity Leave
Two years ago, the Canadian government made what many hailed as positive changes to the rules around maternity leave. These changes included the option to stretch leave from the traditional twelve months to 18, and the ability for parents to split parental leave once the mother has taken 15 weeks.
However, apart from Quebec—which offers fathers up to five weeks of paid paternity leave— Canadian provinces have made no moves towards offering better options for paternity leave. Most of the concern with these changes has surrounded the changes to EI and how it will affect businesses.
But the lack of clearly defined options for fathers, ensures the status quo remains—mothers taking time off. Failing to recognize the importance of paternity leave, and how it can positively impact businesses, father’s relationships with their children and mother’s professional prospects will only continue, unless companies step up and reevaluate the parental leave they offer.
Benefits of Paternity Leave: Paternity Leave Encourages Active Fathering
In Sweden, which has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, parents are afforded 480 days of paid parental leave that they can split between them. 90 days of that leave are specifically dedicated to fathers.
Studies have shown that when fathers are afforded the opportunity to take paternity leave it leads to improved familial relationships, increased engagement that lasts beyond the first year of a child’s life, and enhanced health and development outcomes for children.
Paternity leave doesn’t just improve father-child relationships. Several studies have reported an increase in relationship satisfaction between mothers and fathers when fathers take parental leave.
Knowing how beneficial paternity leave can be to the family unit, it’s a wonder it has yet to become the norm.
Consider the Generational Shift
Millennials are at the forefront when it comes to gender equality. In fact, Millennials “are the generation most likely to hold egalitarian views.” More than three-quarters of Millennials believe women and men should be equal in both the public sphere of work and the private sphere of the family.
With this knowledge in hand, it’s a bit confusing as to why governments and businesses haven’t reshaped the parental leave landscape. After all, Millennials are credited with having improved the work-life balance—advocating for work from home opportunities and better working hours. It’s likely we’ll soon see them advocating for better, and more equal parental leave.
Improve Women’s Career Prospects
For years women have fought for improved maternity leave. So, advocating for better paternity leave may seem counterproductive. It’s not.
Organizations that offer paternity leave actively improve women’s professional prospects. The women’s movement has long advocated for improved gender equity. And part of that fight for gender equality includes a better division of familial responsibilities. Improved paternity leave (as discussed above) enables fathers to take more active roles in their children’s lives from birth. There’s also some evidence that suggests a decrease in post-partum depression for mother’s who’s partners take parental leave.
Paternity leave also positively impacts women’s professional prospects. Research has found a correlation between countries that offer superior paternity leave with higher numbers of women in executive roles. Because these countries are providing additional support to working mothers, women are experience less disruption in their careers.
Access to Paid Paternity Leave Benefits Everyone
When fathers are denied access to paid paternity leave, it can have negative repercussions for families and business. Companies run the risk of losing great employees who may look elsewhere for opportunities that offer better parental benefits. As Millennials become the dominant generation in the workforce, there’s sure to be a push for companies and governments to offer better paternity leave. Offering support to employees through benefits that consider their needs and beliefs will only help company’s build better, stronger culture.