Paternity Leave Facts

The Human Rights Watch has come out with a report that in part documents the health and financial impact on American workers of having little or no paid family leave after childbirth, while also showing the inequalities facing fathers when it comes to availability of paternity leave.

The 90-page “Failing its Families: Lack of Parental Leave and Work-Family Supports in the U.S.” report describes the lack of support for new parents as human rights violations.

Though the report mostly focuses on the impact on mothers, there were also a few interesting pieces of information on paternity leave that are largely overlooked in discussions about maternity leave.

** At least 178 countries have national laws that guarantee paid leave for new mothers, while only 49 countries provide similar forms of leave for fathers, according to the International Labour Organization.

** Disparities between men and women in access to paid and unpaid leave after childbirth or adoption show that women were more likely to have access to maternity leave than men were to paternity leave (89.3 percent versus 71.9 percent of respondents), according to a 2004 report analyzing data from the Urban Institute’s 2002 National Survey of American Families.

** Comparing pay during maternity leave and paternity leave, research has found that more women workers get pay during maternity leave than men during paternity leave. A 2008 national study of employers found that 52 percent said they offer some pay to women on maternity leave, compared to 16 percent offering paid leave to men on paternity leave.

** The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) enables U.S. workers with new children or family members with serious medical conditions to take unpaid job-protected leave, but it covers only about half the workforce. While fathers are eligible, more women (76 percent) than men (45 percent) with young children took some leave, according to an FMLA survey. The Human Rights Watch says this is “undoubtedly due to social expectations of women as caregivers” though it can also be argued that is undoubtedly due to social expectations that men should be the hard-working financial breadwinners, not the ones at home caring for their children.

** Of the very few biological mothers interviewed whose husbands did have paid paternity leave, their partners’ ability to stay home and support them made an enormous difference.

That final point illustrates that though fathers are not the ones actually giving birth or having to recover from the pain of childbirth, the father’s role is just as important in supporting his family in the weeks and months following childbirth.

It’s time the United States stepped up its protection of new parents, both mothers and fathers.

Cordell & Cordell Law Firm handles many domestic litigation issues, including paternity. Contact the Cordell and Cordell office nearest you or learn more information about paternity laws on


Men's Rights Editor

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