A Lot Of Americans Support Paternity Leave And Companies Are Catching On

The idea that dads need to bond with babies is starting to take hold, but there's more to do.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., with his wife, Priscilla Chan. He recently announced he'd take two months off after the arrival of their baby.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., with his wife, Priscilla Chan. He recently announced he'd take two months off after the arrival of their baby.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. is catching on to the idea that fathers might want some time off to bond with a new baby.

Nearly half of Americans think companies should be obligated to provide paid time off to new fathers, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds. There's still a ways to go, though. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed said companies shouldn't have to give new dads paternity leave, while 15 percent were unsure about the issue.

Clearly, the idea that dads need time to bond with new babies is still in its, well, infancy. A handful of progressive businesses, including Facebook and Spotify, recently announced they would offer equal amounts of paid time off to men and women. But they're outliers. Paternity leave was offered by only 14 percent of employers surveyed last year by the Families and Work Institute.

Americans are more supportive of paid time off for women. Sixty-nine percent of respondents to the HuffPost/YouGov poll said companies should be required to offer paid maternity leave.

Indeed, two-thirds of Americans assume that if women were financially free to choose they would either want long leaves (more than 12 weeks) to be with their babies or simply never to return to work at all.

For men, Americans see things differently: 21 percent of respondents said that most men would prefer to take no leave and half said men would want less than 12 weeks leave. Fourteen percent said that they would think less highly of a man who took 12 weeks of paternity leave after the birth of his child.

The U.S. is the only developed country in the world that offers no paid time off to mothers. Men and women who work at companies with more than 50 employers are entitled to take 12 weeks unpaid leave, under a Clinton-era law called the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Paternity leave is not as universally accepted. At least 79 countries provide some kind of time off for new fathers, mostly paid (compared with 185 countries that offer paid maternity leave), according to a 2014 report from the International Labour Organization. That's a big jump from just 40 countries in 1994. Overall these laws provide far less time to men than women get.

Some forward-thinking European countries are experimenting with different ways to incentivize men to take time off after the arrival of a baby.

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There's a good deal of research that shows that men who take time off to bond with a child develop deeper relationships with their kids. "Fathers attach to their babies in the ways similar to mothers and at the same time, making it important for new dads to spend as much time as possible with their newborns," Susan Newman, a social psychologist, parenting expert and blogger for Psychology Today, told The Huffington Post this summer.

There's more evidence that shows giving men and women equal amounts of time off at work helps further equality in the office -- and erase gender inequality in pay. As HuffPost has written before, paternity leave is not only good for men and their kids -- it's good for women at work, too.

There are signs that support for fathers is growing.

In a HuffPost poll from early this year, 67 percent of Americans said they favored paid maternity leave while 55 percent said they supported paid paternity leave -- an increase of 8 percentage points from a previous poll. There was a stark partisan divide on the issue as well. Only 36 percent of Republicans said they supported paid paternity leave, compared with 70 percent of Democrats.

Methodology: The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Nov. 24-30 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls' methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov's reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.