Boston College Center for Work & Family Examines Expanded Paid Parental Leave in the Workplace

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New study sponsored by DOVE MEN + CARE finds high uptake and workplace support for new mothers and fathers taking expanded parental leave. At home, new parents aspire to sharing caregiving equally, but women still do more.

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Cover of Parental Leave study

“We need to encourage, expect and celebrate men becoming shared caregivers. Organizations can do this by offering men paternity leave and acknowledging that fathers also need to make significant adjustments in their professional life when children enter the picture."

As more employers consider expanding paid parental leave as a means to attract and retain top talent, a new study from the Boston College Center for Work & Family (the Center) finds that most new parents - including new fathers - will take substantial amounts of leave if it is offered to them, and aspire to share caregiving equally at home. But gendered norms persist with both men and women stating that women still do more. The results of the study were presented at the Fall 2019 Boston College Workforce Roundtable meeting in Boston, MA.

“While women still receive more support for taking leave from management and co-workers, the support men receive is increasing rapidly. Men’s and women’s aspirations and fears showed a high level of consistency. It seems clear that working mothers’ and fathers’ experiences regarding leave-taking are converging,” notes Brad Harrington, Executive Director of the Center and lead author of the study.

The new study entitled Expanded Paid Parental Leave: Measuring the Impact of Leave on Work & Family represents the latest report in The New Dad research series, a ten-year effort of the Center, which examines the evolving roles and attitudes of working fathers. This study examined the attitudes and experiences of 1,240 men and women from four large US-based employers, who were eligible to take between 6-16 weeks of gender-neutral, fully paid parental leave. Survey respondents were largely married or in a domestic partnership (97%), highly educated (99% bachelor’s degree or above), and from dual-earner households (89%).

Nearly all new mothers (93%) and a majority of new fathers (62%) in the study took the maximum amount of leave available to them. Moreover, men who were eligible for 16 weeks - the longest leave possible - took an average of 12.8 weeks or 80% of what they were offered. While the high uptake among women is not surprising, the amount of leave men took rebuts the conventional wisdom that “you can offer men leave but they will not take it”.

The study also reveals increasing support in the workplace for all parents taking leave. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of men and women agreed that their employer is equally supportive of mothers and fathers taking leave and more than half agreed that their workplace culture has improved as a result of the leave policy. However, men and women were most concerned that taking leave would negatively impact their career advancement with even more women (59%) than men (49%) agreeing that this consideration limited the amount of leave they took.

Taking leave appears to be having many of its intended benefits. Well over 90% of men and women agreed that they have a deeper bond with their child and more confidence as caregivers as a result of taking leave. Men, in particular, were more likely to report a stronger relationship with their partner as well as greater life and job satisfaction after taking leave. In good news for employers, 75% of new parents agreed that they are more likely to remain with their employer because of the leave policy.

Consistent with the Center’s previous studies, three-quarters of men and women said they strive to share caregiving equally with their partner, reflecting an egalitarian attitude toward dividing responsibilities at home. This is perhaps not surprising given the large number of dual earners in the study. However, less than half reported actually sharing caregiving equally - and only 2% of fathers report that they do more caregiving compared to 49% of women who agreed that they do more.

Harrington adds, “We need to encourage, expect and celebrate men becoming shared caregivers. Organizations can do this by offering men paternity leave and acknowledging that fathers also need to make significant adjustments in their professional life when children enter the picture. Leaders also need to avoid making assumptions about who does what when it comes to parenting. The key to women achieving equality in the workplace will be the role that men play in the family and men’s willingness to share caregiving in an equitable fashion.”

About The Boston College Center for Work & Family and BC Workforce Roundtable
The Boston College Center for Work & Family is the country’s leading university-based center focused on helping organizations enhance the employee experience. The Boston College Workforce Roundtable is the premier learning and networking community for progressive employers, providing access to contemporary research and thought leadership on innovative human resource practices and workplace cultures. For more information, please visit http://www.bc.edu/cwf.

About The New Dad Research Series
The New Dad Research Series examines the evolving roles and attitudes of working fathers. Over the past decade, this research has explored such topics as the transition to fatherhood, paternity leave, at-home dads, and Millennial fathers and has garnered extensive international media coverage on the challenges facing today's fathers.

About DOVE MEN + CARE and the Pledge for Paternity Leave
Dove Men+Care is the first range of products from Dove developed specially for men. Manufactured by Unilever, the line includes the #1 dermatologist recommended bars and body washes in the U.S. Launched in 2010, the Dove Men+Care portfolio includes bars, body washes, face care, anti-perspirant/deodorants, and hair care. Dove Men+Care is available nationwide in food, drug, and mass outlet stores.

Since launching, the brand has been committed to expanding the opportunities for men to care. To do that immediately in the U.S., Dove Men+Care created a platform around its dedication to change federal policy, making paid paternity leave the new standard for all dads. These efforts have included The Pledge for Paternity Leave, to encourage dads, allies and business leaders to show their support for paid family leave and the Paternity Leave Fund, a $1 Million commitment fund real dads who aren’t able to take meaningful time off. More information is available at dovemencare.com/pledge.

For additional information and to access the full report, go to http://www.bc.edu/cwf.

Media Contact:
Anne Thomson
anne.thomson@bc.edu

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