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The valuable work benefit dads are missing out on

Father and baby paternity
Sally Anscombe | Getty Images

If you're about to become a dad, it pays to check your benefits. Some companies are being more generous with paternity leave and other parental perks.

All of the "50 Best Places to Work" in a new report from Fatherly.com offer at least a few weeks of paid paternity leave—and 6.4 percent offered nine or more. "Facebook outpaces every other company in the 50 Best with a blanket 17-week paid parental leave policy," the report said. "Their closest competitor isn't even a company—it's the nation of Norway." (Norway offers 49 weeks of leave at 100 percent pay or 59 weeks at 80 percent pay for parents to share and fathers must use at least 10 weeks of that leave.)

Paternity and parental leave are becoming more important tools to retain and recruit workers. "There's a stronger connection and interaction among parents than there was maybe a generation ago," said Carol Sladek, partner and work-life consulting lead at benefits administration firm Aon Hewitt. "A lot of organizations are looking at this as a benefit that makes sense." Because maternity leave is often covered under short-term disability policies, adding paternity or broader parental leave policies is a way to be more generous to employees.

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"The bar, we believe, starts with paternity or parental leave," said Simon Isaacs, a co-founder of Fatherly. Many of the best go well beyond that though, he said, offering flexible work policies and other parental perks like concierge services to handle grocery runs and laundry, maximizing at-home time. At first-ranked Google, for example, there's a $500 "baby bonding" bonus, and, in the event of your untimely death, generous benefits including a $1,000 monthly payout to each child until he or she turns 19 (or 23, if a full-time student). That's in addition to 12 to 18 weeks of paid leave.

Nice perks if you can get them, but most companies are still behind the curve. In 2014, 17 percent of employers offered a paid paternity leave policy for salaried employees, according to data Aon Hewitt pulled for CNBC.com, assessing 1,125 companies. "It's still a more leading-edge benefit," said Sladek. "[Access] depends on the type of organization you're working with." (See graphic below for a breakdown of Fatherly's 50 Best, by industry.)

Most dads, like moms, end up cobbling together time off from vacation, personal and sick days. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible employees are entitled to 12 work-weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to care for a newborn child. Three states—California, New Jersey and Rhode Island—also provide for some paid family leave for residents. "Outside of that, they're pretty much at the generosity of their employer or the mercy of their employer," said Vicki Shabo, vice president at the National Partnership for Women & Family.

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Not that dads seem particularly eager to take paternity leave even when it's offered. Citing Labor Department data, Shabo said 70 percent of dads take 10 days or less of leave after the birth of a child. A 2012 study of college professors found that while 69 percent of women took paid parental leave, only 12 percent of men did—and many did so to complete research or publish papers rather than pitch in with child care.

"There's definitely stigma that's still involved," said Shabo. "Cultures where employers look less favorably, or employees think they'll be looked on less favorably, if they take [parental] leave."

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More companies offering paternity and parental leave help, she said, as do stories of top-level executives who take advantage of such policies. But "going company by company is a very slow and plodding way to go," said Shabo. More insurance-based state programs, where workers and companies pay into the benefit, would help.

A 2012 report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that only 13 percent of California employers reported extra costs associated with workers taking leave under the state's program. Smaller companies were less apt to report negative effects than larger companies. Meanwhile, 89 percent reported "no noticeable effect" or a "positive effect" of the program on productivity, and 91 percent, on profitability.