Parental leave: No longer just for mothers
“Just 29 percent of organizations offer some kind of paid leave to dads,” said Jena McGregor in The Washington Post. But now a legal settlement at JPMorgan Chase “could accelerate the trend toward more clearly gender-neutral policies for new parents.” The bank paid $5 million to settle a class-action suit filed after one JPMorgan employee allegedly was told he had to prove “his wife had returned to work or was incapacitated” in order for him to receive the full 16-week paid leave as “primary caregiver.” The benefit for “secondary caregivers,” at the time, was only two weeks. Experts see the bank’s settlement in the case as a potential wake-up call. Derek Rotondo, the dad behind the JPMorgan lawsuit, said the impact of his 16-week paternity leave after the birth of his second child was “huge,” said Noam Scheiber in The New York Times. Compared with the two weeks he received after his wife’s first pregnancy, Rotondo “was able to take charge of settling the baby down late at night, sparing his wife sleep deprivation,” and form a stronger bond with his older son.
Paid parental leave is so popular that both Democrats and Republicans now “want government to ‘do more’ to give parents paid time off,” said John Stossel in Reason.com. “Companies and workers already are working this out—voluntarily, without government telling them how they must handle it.” Yet encouraged by court decisions like this one, “arrogant politicians” of all stripes want new family-leave mandates. Is this really the government’s job? Be careful what you wish for. A one-size-fits-all government mandate for parental leave often discourages employers from hiring women in the first place. Even worse: Many employers will avoid hiring women for high-level positions, knowing they may need to leave the jobs empty for many months. Not having government mandates for leave is one reason that “American women are more likely to be in senior-level positions, managerial positions, than women in Europe.”
That’s exactly why both sexes should be “given—and take—substantial parental leave,” said Brooke Masters in the Financial Times. Paid paternity leave is also associated with “higher female employment, improved retention, lower gender pay gaps, and less gender stereotyping at work.” Big corporations such as Bank of America and Facebook have begun to realize this and “see equal leave as a recruitment tool.” But smaller companies will struggle to match them unless the government steps in to “cover a fairer system” and provide money for all parents to take time off. Until the sexes are treated equally, “women will continue to face discrimination from employers who see child-rearing as a burden.” ■