The Number of Men Who Take Paternity Leave in the UK Has Fallen for the Fourth Year in a Row

Less than one in three men are taking time off after baby is born.
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profile picture of Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
July 8, 2019
dad cuddling with new baby
Image: Alexandra Hraskova

Less than one in three men take paternity leave, according to a new UK study which was reported on by Independant. Only about 31 percent of new dads used paternity leave, compared to 32 percent in the previous year. The findings seem to be an ongoing trend there, where the number of men who take time off after baby is born has fallen for the fourth year in a row. The findings contrast with the increasing number of women in the UK who are choosing to take maternity leave, which researchers say has risen by about 5 percent in the last four years.

Although the report focuses on families in the UK, it’s probably not too far off from trends we’ve see in the US. The results are in large part affected by the parental leave offered to parents, which the US is notorious for having lackluster policies in place for nationwide.

Offering paternity leave is not only beneficial for fathers, but the whole family. A man’s time away from work and with baby helps to create bonds and transition him into his new role as a father. But that’s not all. Men with female partners who are able to take time off help their partners’ health thrive. The findings were seen in a 2019 study, which looked at the effects of a reform in Sweden that introduced more flexibility into the parental leave system. Researchers found mothers are 14 percent less likely to visit a doctor for childbirth-related complications when fathers are present during the early days of baby’s life. They’re also 11 percent less likely to require antibiotic prescriptions, and 26 percent less likely to need anti-anxiety medication. Not to mention, men who are given a longer paternity leave benefit working moms’ careers in the long run.

Sadly, this information still isn’t enough to overhaul the seriously lacking parental leave in the US. While a handful of states have made moves to offer a more comprehensive benefit to new parents, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Last week, Orgeon passed the most generous paid family leave law in the US, making it only the eighth state in the country to have a paid family leave policy in place.

In addition to Oregeon, four states, California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York, currently require paid family leave. A paid family leave measure in Washington, D.C. will take effect on July 1, 2020. The state of Washington passed SB 5975 in July 2017 to commence a paid leave program at the start of 2020. And last July, Massachusetts passed its paid family leave law which goes into effect in 2021.

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