Why we need paternal leave and a new mindset about dads
May 29, 2015 5:09 AM   Subscribe

The New Republic interviews Josh Levs, a CNN reporter who "has written a book, All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses – and How We Can Fix It Together, arguing that it is incumbent on men to become part of a conversation about gender equality in homes and in workplaces."

Excerpt:
When my wife was pregnant and I realized I would need to be home, I discovered that Time Warner had this strange policy under which anyone could get ten paid weeks, unless you were a man who impregnated the mother of a child. I went, in private, straight to [the Time Warner] benefits [department] and said, “I’m sure this is an oversight and you didn’t mean to exclude dads.” They wouldn’t give me an answer for months. Then my daughter was born in an emergency delivery, and eleven days later I’m home holding my four-pound preemie, messaging benefits, saying “Hey, I need an answer.” That’s when they wrote back to say that they would be unable to give me paid leave benefits. I decided to file a suit with the EEOC for gender discrimination....

We need paid family leave on a national level. It’s good for businesses and good for the economy; it already exists and is working great in California and New Jersey and Rhode Island. We need to make this national policy. There’s a bill in Congress, the FAMILY Act, that would do that.

Paid leave is not a law requiring businesses to pay you when you’re out. Paid family leave is an insurance system that would tax 20 cents for every $100 you make. Studies show that when people find out what paid leave is, they support it. It is an absolute human necessity, not left or right. When a child leaves a womb, it should have a parent home with it for a bunch of weeks, and that parent should not be worried about putting food on the table....

We have to take it seriously when Piers Morgan goes on Morning Joe and says that men don’t want paternity leave and are useless with babies. Some people are stuck on wanting to hold on to those old versions of masculinity and femininity; we need to rise up against that. Notions like “Women worry more about their kids”—as long as you hold on to those tropes you cannot advance to equality. I’m the father of a daughter and two sons, and I want my daughter to have an equal opportunity to have a career and my sons to have equal opportunities at home....

We need to change the predominant images people have in their minds. I spoke to one guy who was excoriated for taking off two whole days after the emergency birth of his child, but who takes really good care of his kids. He said to me, “I’m not like most dads. I come home and cook dinner and take care of my kids. Most dads don’t want to do anything when they get home at night.” Where do people get that image? It’s from this popular image of the clueless, doofus dad. It’s perpetuated in ads suggesting that dads are really stupid and don’t know how to do anything, so buy our product and it will fix that.

We need more real life stories that tell us that the norm today is for dads to be totally capable at home. Dads are not lazy, not coming home at the end of the day, kicking up their feet and doing nothing. When we start to understand that domestic egalitarianism actually does exist, we will have to respond with policy. That’s why these dumb dad stereotypes are not just an annoyance, they have real life implications.
(Previously and previouslier — paternal leave.)

(Previously and previouslier — ads with inept men.)
posted by John Cohen (61 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
We have to take it seriously when Piers Morgan goes on Morning Joe and says that men don’t want paternity leave and are useless with babies.

Do you think that maybe part of the problem is the fact that something said on "Morning Joe" is allowed to enter into an adult conversation? Maybe Metafilter should stop validating these specious sources and reach a little higher.
posted by any major dude at 5:18 AM on May 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm starting parental leave in 10(ish) days. 50% of the programmers on my team are currently on maternity or paternity leave.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:19 AM on May 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


You know what the typical American corp response to approaching this as a gender equality issue is?

Reducing paid maternity leave.

Please please please do not make this about gender equality. This is one of the few places where sex difference is significant.

And it is another place where women ge t the short end of the stick, again, if mean "gain" anything more by comparison.

This should be about sanity and reasonable corp behaviour. Not some misguided notion of equality that can be used as a cudgel.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:40 AM on May 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


We need to talk about living wages; we need better access to transportation because so many people can’t access jobs to begin with. We need free, universal pre-K. (...) There are very few people, I think, who do not believe that there should be these policies. The people who hold the power, in politics and business, aren’t acting out of ill intent; they just don’t know what the reality is for American families and it’s important that we tell them.

He is certainly far less cynical about the political landscape in this country than I am.
posted by TedW at 5:43 AM on May 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


"Please please please do not make this about gender equality. This is one of the few places where sex difference is significant. And it is another place where women get the short end of the stick, again, if mean "gain" anything more by comparison. "

From Claire Cain Miller in the New York Times, "When Family-Friendly Policies Backfire":
Perhaps the most successful way to devise policies that help working families but avoid unintended consequences, people who study the issue say, is to make them gender neutral. In places like Sweden and Quebec, for instance, parental leave policies encourage both men and women to take time off for a new baby.
posted by daveliepmann at 5:49 AM on May 29, 2015 [19 favorites]


clvrmnky, if men have more power than women in a corporate system then doesn't it logically follow that parental leave would be improved by men demanding it too?

Also, I have to cheer anything that fights against the "clueless dad" stereotype. Sure I know some, but I also know a lot of really involved dads too.
posted by dweingart at 5:56 AM on May 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


You know what the typical American corp response to approaching this as a gender equality issue is?

Reducing paid maternity leave.


It's conceivable that this response could be constrained by laws. Babies, and employer perceptions around what they might demand from women employees, are what scupper women's professional advancement; equitable parental leave has the power to level the playing field.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:57 AM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


My company, a hospital system, gives one week paternity but it counts against your vacation time.
posted by octothorpe at 6:01 AM on May 29, 2015


My company, a hospital system, gives one week paternity but it counts against your vacation time.

That's not paternity leave, that's just vacation.

When my son was born, I took a whopping 3 days off work because that's all I could have. It's bullshit, but unfortunately I don't see this getting better in the US oligarchy.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:05 AM on May 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


Do you think that maybe part of the problem is the fact that something said on "Morning Joe" is allowed to enter into an adult conversation? Maybe Metafilter should stop validating these specious sources and reach a little higher.

Yes, let's base our understanding of American culture entirely on scholarly articles and act like mass media doesn't at all reflect or influence social norms.
posted by John Cohen at 6:11 AM on May 29, 2015 [20 favorites]


It's been fairly well-established that only the wealthy should be permitted to have children.
posted by aramaic at 6:12 AM on May 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


There are many factors here which tend to self reinforce. Women are perceived as the primary caretakers, so when paternal leave is available at all, it is more likely to go to them. This means women are more likely to take parental leave. This means they are at a disadvantage when compared to male colleagues. Which means that even when leave is available to both parents (as in more progressive countries than the US), women are still more likely to take it, because that is the expectation, and also because it makes financial sense for the parent with lower career expectations to take more time off. The perception of women as the primary caretaker both contributes to workplace inequality and is a result of it.

I still think most parental leave discussions are framed backwards. Medical leave should be everyone's right, and mothers who need it definitely deserve it. But parental leave in general is a right of the child, just like education.
posted by Nothing at 6:15 AM on May 29, 2015 [12 favorites]


When my wife and I brought our son home, we were both lucky enough to work for large organizations so we could take FMLA. One interesting thing about FMLA is that you don't have to take it all at once, you can take it intermittently.

We alternated weeks with one back at work and one at home. This kept work happy as we still working, it kept money coming in, although not as much, and it extended the time before we had to put him in day care.
We had enough money saved to handle the reduction in our incomes for the duration and the extra time we had with him before we went back to work full time was well spent.

That being said, these kind of gyrations shouldn't be needed and as a man I was very grateful to spend those formative times with my son.
posted by cuscutis at 6:16 AM on May 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's nice that people think government guidelines and limits are the driver here, but in the American system this is going to be an insurance and corp policy driven system.

And in those systems, equality often means reducing benefits for all, equally. Gender neutral policies may work elsewhere, but they will not work in the US without dismantling the barbaric private insurance and patchwork state systems more than a little.

These are the exact unintended consequences I have seen first-hand.

If you press this as an equality issue without addressing systemic problems elsewhere, women are going to lose.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:16 AM on May 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


Thanks you, daveliepmann, for pointing out the NYT article, and that quote in particular. I am happy to get some validation to what has been on my mind for a long time. It makes me wonder what the US will look like in 20-30 years compared to other countries with much more family friendly, gender neutral policies, and it simply makes me want to the leave the country.

I also think that is goes beyond the work place: I am appalled to take my son to toddler activities only to find some baby (and one would imagine, family) oriented facilities having men's restroom's with no change tables!
posted by TheyCallItPeace at 6:35 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


If demand for paid paternity leave increases people are naturally going to view it as an issue of gender equality. I'm not sure how you prevent that.
posted by dweingart at 6:44 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I sort of think that a paid FMLA for any reason would be an improvement on the system, not just becoming a parent.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:47 AM on May 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


That's not paternity leave, that's just vacation.

Well you have to pick a different category when you fill out your timesheet. And you're much more likely to have it approved. But, yeah.
posted by octothorpe at 6:48 AM on May 29, 2015


Since my wife and I both work for the same agency, our time off got cut in half after she gave birth so she got only 6 weeks and I only got six weeks (12 weeks for a single person).
posted by Renoroc at 6:54 AM on May 29, 2015


In my ideal world, the mother would get 8 weeks paid disability for birth, the father could take 1 week sick leave for the birth then there would be at least one month of paid bonding time for both the mom and the dad (that they don't have to take at the same time). It only adds up to 16 weeks before the kid has to go to daycare, but it's still a lot better than what is available to most now. And you wouldn't have to use up all your sick time/vacation time... you do have doctor's appointments when you go back but you have no time available for them right now.
posted by typecloud at 6:59 AM on May 29, 2015


> My company, a hospital system, gives one week paternity but it counts against your vacation time.

> That's not paternity leave, that's just vacation.

> Well you have to pick a different category when you fill out your timesheet. And you're much more likely to have it approved. But, yeah.

Much more likely to have it approved? As in you have your vacation requests declined with some frequency?

Unless you're in a "mission-critical" position with no viable back-up, or you're working in a specific crunch time, there is no reason you should be denied your vacation time. This is more BS corporate "everyone should want to work, and if you're making use of the vacation time you earn, you clearly don't want to be here, and that's suspicious."

I like systems that pool your sick and vacation time as "personal time," and let the employees be adults who can manage their own time as they see fit, so you don't get issues with "sickaction" days or "mental health" days that are kind of OK, unless administration really wants to see a letter from your doctor or other ridiculous BS.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:00 AM on May 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


Also, I have to cheer anything that fights against the "clueless dad" stereotype. Sure I know some, but I also know a lot of really involved dads too.

That's good to know, because I read threads like this and this and am pretty horrified by unequal the parenting burden simply ends up from the get go.
posted by discopolo at 7:00 AM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Very often, even the most involved dads are doing much less of the menial work of parenting.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:03 AM on May 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


> In my ideal world ...

If you're talking about ideals, you should say what you want. Don't negotiate on behalf of Bureaucracy/Legislation, that's their job to counter your ideal proposal and you then meet somewhere in the middle (or realistically, towards the lower end).
posted by filthy light thief at 7:05 AM on May 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm with filthy light thief here. In many countries, both parents get about 18 weeks leave at full pay. That seems a reasonable minimum for "ideal".

And anyone who objects about the cost to employers -- I'm looking at you on the political right -- doesn't also get to then say they "support families". Giving people time off to start their families is the least you can do to support them.
posted by foldedfish at 7:22 AM on May 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


filthy light thief -- it's my ideal mainly because it's the most leave I think a woman in the US could currently take (and her husband) without negatively impacting careers in the current climate... ideal is the wrong word. proposal maybe?
posted by typecloud at 7:23 AM on May 29, 2015


Much more likely to have it approved? As in you have your vacation requests declined with some frequency?

Well I'm just a software QA guy so no one cares about my PTO request but it is a hospital system so I'm sure that there's lots of competition among the hospital staff for vacation time on Christmas and 4th of July and such.
posted by octothorpe at 7:31 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Very often, even the most involved dads are doing much less of the menial work of parenting.

Then they're not really that involved, are they? Or, they're not allowing the SO to be as involved, if they're offloading the menial housework to be involved with the kid(s).

Dear new dads: you can do a lot for your SO. You can't breastfeed, and you couldn't birth the baby, but you can provide a lot of support and take on as many duties as you can. You can't feed your new baby at night feedings, but you can change and burp the little one, and make sure your SO doesn't stay asleep after the baby is finished nursing, because your SO will likely get a sore neck and back, and not sleep as well. You'll both be tired, but this too shall pass, and if you're working all day and only seeing your baby in those windows between when you come home and then go to bed, and briefly in the mornings, plus weekends, you're missing time to enjoy your goopy little off-spring growing up oh so quickly, and the myriad of funny little things they do.

If you're using formula, there's nothing the mother does that you as a father cannot do. Diapers aren't stinky until they start eating real food (usually - there will be some surprise stinkers, but they're not as bad as really poopy diapers). Spit-up is not too bad, either, as long as you wipe off the stuff quickly and don't let it sit around, or that sour milk smell will set in.

A crying baby sucks for everyone, and becoming a mother doesn't give a woman magical soothing powers. A crying baby sucks even more when you're tired. If your baby is prone to cry, take turns with the little sad thing, so both parents can get some time to decompress, otherwise a crying baby can push you to make bad decisions.

If you're like me and other who don't see messes, work with your SO to detail what to do, and how to do it. Better yet, lay this all out before you have a new baby in the house and you're sleep deprived.

Of course, it's a lot easier to be rested and share responsibilities if both parents are well rested and not stressed about bills, as would come with a month or two of paid leave. We can start small and slowly work our way up to Finnish levels of support. Also of note: Parental leave is not even for women and men anywhere at this point, but usually because women get a lot more time off than men. (I'm not seeing the 18 weeks for both maternity and paternity leave, but maybe I'm missing it).
posted by filthy light thief at 7:31 AM on May 29, 2015 [11 favorites]


typecloud, you're being realistic, given the current market climate (expectant mothers and young women of child-bearing ages questioned for their actual dedication to a job, or if they're looking for benefits for their unborn child; glass ceiling; etc). If you're talking about ideals, talk about everything being ideal.

No great leaps are made without visionary goals. Shoot for the stars, hit the moon. If you shoot for the moon to be realistic from the very start, you might never get off the ground.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:34 AM on May 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Which means that even when leave is available to both parents (as in more progressive countries than the US), women are still more likely to take it,

In some European countries the mother is only entitled to the maximum amount of paid leave if the father also takes his maximum entitlement. Otherwise hers is halved. That is a solution intended to solve the above-mentioned problem. Dunno if it works, though.
posted by lollusc at 7:37 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not American, so I can't really speak to the truth of what you say, clvrmnky, but it sounds kind of like, "Don't rock this terrible, awful boat." I really hope things are not that bad, but having read healthcare and employment threads on here in the past I guess I shouldn't be surprised at a kind of hostage-like mentality.

I'm currently on parental leave for four months with our second child! Woo! I'm in Canada so together my wife and I receive a year of Employment Insurance (technically there's some "maternity" time I'm not eligible for since she is the one who gave birth). We have the same employer, which provides up to eight months of "top up" (they cover most the difference between EI and your salary) per employee couple. So right now I'm on EI only. For our first child we did get a full year of "top up" because my wife had a different employer and we were able to get a portion from each. On the one hand, it does kind of feel a bit unfair that it's set up per couple like this and not just per employee with our employer, but on the other I know how good we've got it compared to others, even in Canada. We've mentioned it to the union, but I think they probably have bigger fish to fry.
posted by ODiV at 7:37 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


As half of a dual-freelance couple, this is an interesting debate to watch from the outside. We didn't have to worry about any of this when we had our kids - didn't even have disability insurance then - but of course, every day we didn't work was a day we didn't earn.
posted by gottabefunky at 7:48 AM on May 29, 2015


I'm in the US. My husband was able to take three weeks of unpaid time when our son was born 20 years ago. We were fortunate to have had extra dollars set aside in the bank, not something most people can easily lay hands on. I don't think the issue has gotten any easier in the last two decades, which is very sad.
posted by puddledork at 7:49 AM on May 29, 2015


Please please please do not make this about gender equality. This is one of the few places where sex difference is significant.

Perhaps the most successful way to devise policies that help working families but avoid unintended consequences, people who study the issue say, is to make them gender neutral. In places like Sweden and Quebec


One way of handling it is to have both a maternity leave exclusive to biological mothers, and an additional parental leave for all new parents, which the couple can decide how to use. Parental leave applies to both bio and adoptive parents, gender of either doesn't matter. Adoptive and/or same sex couples are covered that way too. Maternal leaves allows biomoms the option to take time before birth and ensures recovery times as well. Parental (and paternal in QC) can only be used after the child is born (or arrives).

Quebec goes further and gives bio fathers an exclusive paternal leave too, but they have the most generous system in Canada.
posted by bonehead at 8:13 AM on May 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


One way of handling it is to have both a maternity leave exclusive to biological mothers, and an additional parental leave for all new parents, which the couple can decide how to use.

I suspect in a system like that, what will happen is that women/birth mothers will be pressured to take that time and fathers/non-birth mothers to go back to work quickly. And as more couples choose that, the pressure from companies for men to go back to work quickly will increase, and the assumption that women of childbearing age will all want to "screw over companies" by taking a bunch of time off will increase, which means women's wages and opportunities will decrease, which means it will keep "just making sense" for the lower-earning female spouse to take more time off work, which means those assumptions about how women will always take time off and men should never take time off will increase, etc.

I think there needs to be a system in which women and men are equally incentivized to take leave and equally pressured to do so. This:

In some European countries the mother is only entitled to the maximum amount of paid leave if the father also takes his maximum entitlement. Otherwise hers is halved.

is a rather ingenious solution. I'd love to know whether that works.
posted by jaguar at 8:45 AM on May 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's nice that people think government guidelines and limits are the driver here, but in the American system this is going to be an insurance and corp policy driven system.


Maybe, but if the government allowed you to collect parental leave like unemployment, if they obliged that people be allowed off for [some time] without pay and get their job back, etc, the corporation policies would be moot.
posted by jeather at 8:46 AM on May 29, 2015


I like systems that pool your sick and vacation time as "personal time," and let the employees be adults who can manage their own time as they see fit, so you don't get issues with "sickaction" days or "mental health" days that are kind of OK, unless administration really wants to see a letter from your doctor or other ridiculous BS.

That system sounds reasonable, but I have usually seen it implemented so that little or no personal time is allowed to carry over to the next year. Which means in December, anyone who prudently saved a little time for unexpected illness or other emergency has to scramble to use it up when everyone else wants time off too or lose it at midnight on New Years Eve, in effect giving their employer free labor for those days.
posted by TedW at 8:46 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like systems that pool your sick and vacation time as "personal time," and let the employees be adults who can manage their own time as they see fit

In some places this isn't done because vacation pay is required to be paid out when someone leaves but sick pay isn't.

Typically I've worked places which ask for a letter from a doctor after 3-5 days out.
posted by jeather at 8:51 AM on May 29, 2015


It seems unfair for the employees who choose not to have children for parents to get "extra" benefits simply by having additional children. Not saying I'm against maternity/paternity leave, but it should be balanced by additional benefits for the childfree too. As it stands now in USA, those who do not have children get hit with a "double whammy." by both not getting benefits equivalent to parental leave, and by having to pick up the workload slack when others do. In my opinion, it would be better if vacation/leave would be made more generous across the board, and what individuals used it for was up to them. Most corporations seem to time budget for employee hours as if everyone was there all the time, so that any absence for any reason causes problems, and results in resentments against the employee who is not there at work. I think this is also the reason why so many find it hard to take the vacation time they are entitled to.
posted by ackptui at 8:55 AM on May 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's really troubling to think about FMLA kicking in only after the employee has exhausted all their vacation and sick time. Real question: what is a new parent supposed to do when an illness or doctor's appointment or anything else crops up at any point during the rest of the year? The idea that a new parent/family won't desperately need sick days in the months after giving birth is unbelievably stupid and counterproductive.
posted by witchen at 8:59 AM on May 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


"As it stands now in USA, those who do not have children get hit with a "double whammy." by both not getting benefits equivalent to parental leave..."

Parental leave in the US, for birth parents any way, was initially created as a form of disability coverage. Recovering from either vaginal or Caesarean birth takes time. Things like having fibroids or an appendix removed are also covered.
posted by puddledork at 9:07 AM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


As much as it is frustrating that women can't get these things changed without men's help (because people don't pay attention till a man says something, it's still true), I still welcome men's help. This is a positive overall step. And men doing their share of parenting needs to stop being regarded as either a nice weekend hobby or a qualification for sainthood and instead become the norm for men with kids.

My husband is the at-home parent because he works at home, and it's been hard and neither of us got anything like the time off we needed when our son was born. It was a big factor in us not having another; I would basically have to dump a six-week newborn on him and go back to work, which is not fair to either of us. In fact, had I known just how hard it was going to be and how little support I could get and how expensive the whole process was going to be, I might have reconsidered having a kid at all. And I really wanted my son. I love being a mom. But the price we make people pay to parent is just cruelly high. Even if you don't care about the adults, the kids suffer too. Parenting is a normal human activity and necessary for a society to continue. It should be supported, not treated like a luxury and penalized.
posted by emjaybee at 9:24 AM on May 29, 2015 [12 favorites]


It seems unfair for the employees who choose not to have children for parents to get "extra" benefits simply by having additional children. Not saying I'm against maternity/paternity leave, but it should be balanced by additional benefits for the childfree too. As it stands now in USA, those who do not have children get hit with a "double whammy." by both not getting benefits equivalent to parental leave, and by having to pick up the workload slack when others do.

I don't have children and don't want children and I would love to see expanded parental leave. Raising healthy children is a net benefit to society, not just a hobby for parents. And the taxed insurance system, as set up in California, means that employers are not paying the employee during the leave, which means they should be able to hire temporary assistance.
posted by jaguar at 9:27 AM on May 29, 2015 [20 favorites]


Why do that when you can get your employees to work harder and blame each other for it?

This reminds me of the obsession in the US media I was seeing a while back with the benefits of public employees. A whole bunch of encouragement to fix inequality by tearing away what others have in the name of "fairness". You're no better off, but hey, at least a school teacher has worse health care, I guess?
posted by ODiV at 9:43 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


When my husband worked at {BIG_MOBILE_GAME_COMPANY} he got four weeks paid paternity leave, on top of the state-sponsored paid family leave. We chose to do the CA PFL later in the year, but we took the four weeks straight away because it was use-it-or-lose-it.

So for the first four weeks of my daughter's life -- during which she and I were both in the hospital for four days -- I had uninhibited access to my husband, and you know what? It was fucking awesome.

He changed diapers, fed the baby (so I could sleep), rocked the baby, and as a family, we grew closer together. I remember that time very, very fondly.

When I see dads going back to work days after their kid is born, I just feel so bad for the other parent. Being a new parent is stressful. Doing it alone is even more stressful. And I know a lot of people who came to California to go to their job. They have no family, and no friends who would give up weeks to stay home with them and a newborn. Heaven forfend their pregnancy have a complication, like a preemie or post-natal operations.

We're trying for #2. My husband is currently the SAHP in our household. And honestly, we both want to keep it that way so we don't have to try and find him a job where paternity leave is a battle. Doing my maternity leave with my husband just there to do whatever -- watch the baby so I can sleep, take out the trash, get cheap-o food from the local taqueria -- is a gift. It reduces stress, and makes it easier for all of us to bond with the babbies.
posted by offalark at 9:51 AM on May 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't have children but do have a heavy family caretaking burden beyond most of my age cohort. It works because I have an extraordinary boss and a decent though not great employee policy. While we're shooting for the stars, I might actually kill someone to get an expansion of paid family leave beyond FMLA that would work for all sorts of families.

Meanwhile, I wholeheartedly support parental leave as necessary, earned, and also maybe a step toward that bigger goal. Family leave shouldn't be a zero sum game.
posted by Stacey at 9:53 AM on May 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's really troubling to think about FMLA kicking in only after the employee has exhausted all their vacation and sick time. Real question: what is a new parent supposed to do when an illness or doctor's appointment or anything else crops up at any point during the rest of the year?

FMLA time does not need to be taken all at once. Parents can save a few days to use for illnesses/doctor's appointments. As far as I can tell, this won't result in the parents getting paid any less than if they saved their sick time and started taking unpaid FMLA time earlier and then used the sick time later. Granted it will result in future paychecks being unexpectedly short, so the burden is on families to budget for future sick days.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 9:58 AM on May 29, 2015


martinX - most policies require you to use your sick days and FMLA leave concurrently. While you can go back before the 12 weeks is over and use FMLA unpaid time, your manager and the employer has to agree for you to use FMLA days nonconsequentively (e.g., for reduced work week, sick day), it isn't guaranteed.
posted by typecloud at 10:11 AM on May 29, 2015


If you press this as an equality issue without addressing systemic problems elsewhere, women are going to lose..

Women are harmed by offering only maternal leave and not paternal leave. This means a rational couple will typically decide that the man has to keep working and the woman should go on leave. This reinforces traditional gender norms and can cause women to earn less money even after they return to work (since they'll be less experienced than they otherwise would have been, might have missed important developments affecting their jobs in the meantime, etc.).
posted by John Cohen at 10:56 AM on May 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


One way of handling it is to have both a maternity leave exclusive to biological mothers, and an additional parental leave for all new parents, which the couple can decide how to use.

In the UK, new mothers are obliged to take 2 weeks' paid leave. Then they can either go for the old system (take up to an additional 50 weeks of protected leave, of which 39 are paid, plus 2 weeks' paid leave for her partner) or opt for shared parental leave, which kicked in as an option last month. Shared parental leave is substantially the same as the previous system, but it can be split between the mother and her partner, and used in chunks, e.g. the two parents alternating for a few weeks each over the year. You're guaranteed to have a job waiting for you at the end, and you keep accruing leave, pay rises, etc as if you were still there.

It's far from perfect. The major criticism seems to be that the eligibility criteria, which are mostly around how long you've been in the job before beginning the leave, are too strict. But it sounds far better than the US sytem.

It'll be interesting to see how it gets used. I know a few guys who've taken paternity leave, plus extra time here and there, and it's been seen as a perfectly normal thing to do. I live and work in a fairly liberal bubble, though, so I can't guess how it'd be received in more male-dominated or, er, "traditional" workplaces.
posted by metaBugs at 11:00 AM on May 29, 2015


It seems unfair for the employees who choose not to have children for parents to get "extra" benefits simply by having additional children. Not saying I'm against maternity/paternity leave, but it should be balanced by additional benefits for the childfree too. As it stands now in USA, those who do not have children get hit with a "double whammy." by both not getting benefits equivalent to parental leave, and by having to pick up the workload slack when others do. In my opinion, it would be better if vacation/leave would be made more generous across the board, and what individuals used it for was up to them. Most corporations seem to time budget for employee hours as if everyone was there all the time, so that any absence for any reason causes problems, and results in resentments against the employee who is not there at work. I think this is also the reason why so many find it hard to take the vacation time they are entitled to.

I can't agree with this at all. In the system you describe, it then becomes unfair to the parents -- the child-free get "extra" benefits by being able to use their additional vacation time for, you know, actual vacations, while the parents have to use their vacation time for caring for an infant and (in some mothers' cases) possibly recovering from major surgery and/or trauma.

You might just as well say that workers who get paid disability after suffering an injury or disease should be balanced out by giving healthy people more vacation time. After all, the healthy people have to pick up the slack when their coworkers are out getting chemo or whatever, right?
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 11:44 AM on May 29, 2015 [15 favorites]


My company, a hospital system, gives one week paternity but it counts against your vacation time.

FMLA doesn't apply?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:48 AM on May 29, 2015


FMLA is unpaid.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 11:59 AM on May 29, 2015


Mod note: Comment removed; if you want to talk about what you see as systemic problems on Metafilter, that's okay but you need to go to Metatalk and do it there, not continue a derail in a conversation about something else.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:08 PM on May 29, 2015


We are two dads of three children. Hoo boy, neither of us adults in the fivesome has had an easy road negotiating time off for very basic child care, especially when they were younger. Now we're both more experienced with the process and know how to yell and to whom to yell and about what to yell. There's a lot of yelling.

We work for very different organizations--his a wealthy for-profit, me a low-paying but hard-working non-profit--but they've both been pretty unified on the dads-don't-get-time-off front.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:29 PM on May 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


"As it stands now in USA, those who do not have children get hit with a "double whammy." by both not getting benefits equivalent to parental leave..."

No, no, no. I'm childfree. I won't ever take either maternity leave or parental leave. (It actually means that I'm safer in case of an injury that would prevent me from working, if you have an accident right after you've tapped out your EI on parental leave, and don't have any other long-term disability insurance, you could be very screwed.)

And while I do wish my employer would post mat leave replacement job postings when my colleagues go on leave, it isn't my colleagues' fault that I'm left picking up extra duties - that's on my employer. Although I know a few people who split their parental leave, most women take the full year. And they let everyone now at least 5 months or so prior to taking leave. That's LOTS of planning time to hire a one year temporary employee or find someone from another ministry or program branch interested in a secondment. They could do it, but often choose not to. It would be totally incorrect for me to blame this situation on my new parent colleagues. Don't do that.
posted by Kurichina at 1:33 PM on May 29, 2015 [15 favorites]


I work in HR. Well, staffing.

Our country is a JOKE when it comes to providing bare necessity benefits to employees.

The attitude is, "Fuck you, work more. And you'll like it."

Women get paid benefits so they're enticed to actually work. Companies are scared shitless that the millennial generation doesn't want to work until we die in our office chairs simply because "it's the right thing to do."

Fucking tired of it. Good for him to publicize this. Hope this changes things. It probably won't.
posted by glaucon at 2:06 PM on May 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


fwiw, juliet schor (~15m) wrote about the overworked american in 1992 :P

oh and bernie sanders is fighting for paid family leave (getting to denmark!)*

also btw...
-John Oliver on the lack of US paid family leave
-Paid Family Leave Is Primed for a National Debate
-Generous Republican Benefits: "Marco Rubio, the conservative presidential hopeful from Florida, gives his staff as much paid maternity and paternity leave (12 and six weeks, respectively) as Bernie Sanders..."[1,2,3,4,5]
posted by kliuless at 2:34 PM on May 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


It seems unfair for the employees who choose not to have children for parents to get "extra" benefits simply by having additional children. etc.

This sort of reminds me of those ambulance-chasing commercials: I had a car accident and Joe Blow got me a check for $25,000! And you think, wow, that guy got $25,000, think of all the things I could do with that money, make house repairs, go back to school, upgrade the TV, go on a rad vacation, pay down my student loan, whatever. But you know what, that guy can't do those things with that $25,000 because he's paying off medical bills. And maybe his car is totalled and also maybe for the rest of his life, his back is fucked. That $25,000 is already spent. Plus he had a big scary traumatic accident and spent a few days in the hospital pissing blood through a tube, which totally sucked.

So I don't think that, like, a new parent getting some time off is SO UNFAIR, because you're not really thinking about what thay're doing with that time.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 6:41 PM on May 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


It seems unfair for the employees who choose not to have children for parents to get "extra" benefits simply by having additional children. Not saying I'm against maternity/paternity leave, but it should be balanced by additional benefits for the childfree too.

Oh come the fuck on. Having children (whether biologically or adopted, and I'm of the view that parental leave needs to kick in whenever a new child enters the family) is an arduous and time-consuming task. Providing parental leave is a societal benefit, and no, sorry, people who don't have kids don't need extra time off to create some nonsense notion of 'balance' or 'fairness.'

One would think that parental leave would be a stalwart conservative value; after all it's about FAMILIES and PROVIDING FOR THE CHILDREN. And then one realizes that parental leave is almost always gendered, and what the conservatives want is for women to not be working in the first place.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:24 PM on May 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


And while I do wish my employer would post mat leave replacement job postings when my colleagues go on leave, it isn't my colleagues' fault that I'm left picking up extra duties - that's on my employer.

Yeah. The employers I worked for in Canada --mid-sized, in Ontario-- routinely hired mat-leave backfill. And it was actually really awesome for the company (IMO) because it created a fair amount of planned internal movement, often in mid-level jobs. People would get temporarily promoted, new people would get a shot at lower-level positions, and even if they couldn't be kept on afterwards it was good for their CVs. One year was long enough to make the administrative noise worth it, but not so long that the woman on mat-leave risked "losing her place." It was good for everybody.

I work in HR. Well, staffing.

Our country is a JOKE when it comes to providing bare necessity benefits to employees.


Yeah, this is so hideously true. I want to be careful of not doing the smug Canadian thing (I know we do that), but when I moved to the U.S. I was amazed at the brokenness of benefits/protections here, even for people in white-collar jobs. The first time a U.S. employee of mine got pregnant, I was amazed to find that she had basically zero entitlement to anything. We built a policy, and as we did it I was amazed again that the Americans helping me build it --women, feminists, kind people-- were drafting stuff that was (to me) absurdly inadequate. Like, "two weeks paid leave + sick/vacation + FMLA" or whatever, was considered generous.

Part of the point of public policy is to help set and maintain societal norms. Unfortunately, in the absence of decent public policy, it's really, really hard for ordinary employers to say hey this is nuts, let's do better. And so for most people, their situation just sucks.
posted by Susan PG at 3:19 PM on May 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


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