While the questions of parental leave is most frequently considered in the light of a woman’s ability to take time off from work after giving birth, the importance of paternity leave must also be considered. Social norms still prioritize a man’s commitment to work above his time commitment to his family, and so taking time off can be difficult. However, a man’s use, or non-use, of parental leave can impact his relationship with his child, as well as the well-being of the child’s mother, and the couple’s relationship as a whole. Additionally, the frequency of use of paternal leave impacts gender equality in the workplace and society.
The question of parental leave first became an issue as maternity leave when women began to
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This Act provides employees with the right to twelve weeks of unpaid parental leave, subject to various stipulations (e.g. firms of at least 50 employees, the employee having worked at least 1,250 hours in the prior year, etc.). This law applied to both men and women and provided for the care not only of children but also of other family members needing assistance. However, in reference to parental leave, this significantly enhanced coverage in the United States, particularly for men as few men previously had the right to paternity leave (Waldfogel, 2001, p.102). However, since there is no requirement that this be paid leave, many families are unable to take advantage of this time off. Research points to financial costs as a primary reason fathers fail to take parental leave. American fathers: the family budget does not allow it (Kaufman, Lyonette, and Crompton, 2010, p. 336). In fact, in 2012 just 11 percent of private employers provided paid family leave (Giezen, 2013).
Despite having obtained the right to take time off to care for a family member, particularly a newborn or newly adopted child, men may be reluctant to see work flexibility, including time off for parenting. There is a “perception that doing so will result in significant penalties” (Vandello, Hettinger, Bosson, and Siddiqi, 2013, p. 304). According to Williams, Blair-Loy, and Berdahl, “Men who fail to demonstrate work devotion, by requesting family leave or workplace