While paid leave increases for dads, many don't take it

Key Points
  • While paid leave for new dads is on the rise, it's still relatively rare.
  • Men feel pressured not use this benefit.
  • Child care benefits are also improving.

Leave policies for new dads are becoming more generous. But you're still among the lucky few if your company offers one — along with a workplace culture that encourages you to take it.

New data from found that the average amount of paid paternity leave offered by top companies has jumped from 4 weeks in 2015 to 11 weeks in 2017.

The site's annual "Best Places to Work for New Dads" report evaluated leave policies among for-profit companies with at least 1,000 employees, and weighed details such as number of paid weeks, percentage of salary covered and other family-friendly workplace policies in place. (See the best-ranked, here.)

"It's going up by a month, essentially, every year," said Simon Isaacs, co-founder and chief content office of Fatherly. "So that's really incredible."

It's not the only promising trend. More of those top companies are offering new dads some flexibility on when to take leave, letting them split the time or take it at some later point in the child's first year, Isaccs said. Some also extend paid leave to contractors and hourly workers, along with full-time employees.

Another growing work perk: Child care. Depending on the company, that might be on-site care or subsidies to help workers cover costs, Isaccs said.

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"In the arms race of paid-leave weeks, I think we're going to see a focus on child care," he said.

But it's still the rare new dad who has access to, and actually uses, paid leave, said Josh Levs, the author of "All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families and Businesses — And How We Can Fix It Together." The former CNN journalist took legal action against Time Warner shortly after his daughter was born in 2013, to get fair parental leave policies.

"Most dads have no access to paid leave at all," said Levs. "Even when it's available, the overwhelming majority goes unused. The pressures against men taking leave are tremendous."

Just 15 percent of employers offer some paid leave, according to the 2016 National Study of Employers. That includes 19 percent of large companies (those with 1,000 or more employees), and 14 percent of small companies (those with 50 to 99 employees).

The rising tide of generous policies helps, as do public examples of executives like Mark Zuckerberg taking leave, said Levs. But employees need to do their part by taking leave if it's offered, and advocating for fair policies if it isn't, he said.