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Dads At Work: Paternity Leave in 2009

June 19, 2009

By Dunn, Carney, Allen, Higgins & Tongue

Working fathers and their employers are likely to see some changes in paternity-related leave in 2009 and beyond.  One reason for change is that the existing economic recession, now poised to be the longest in the postwar era, has disproportionately affected men.  In fact, news reports indicate that 82% of the recession-related job losses have befallen men. Men tend to be more heavily represented in industries more susceptible to recession woes – such as manufacturing and construction.  Women in the workforce tend to be concentrated in education, health care, and other similar fields that are less effected in times of economic crisis.  What impact this will have on whether those dads who are still employed take paternity or other care-related leave is unclear, although it is likely that some effect will materialize.

Due to the lack of job security felt in many male-dominated careers, fathers may be less likely to take leave, fearing that several months absence from work may make them appear expendable to employers. On the other hand, families making a calculated analysis of where to take an employment risk may end up favoring paternity leave.  If dad’s job is already at risk, or such negative events as pay or time reductions have already been experienced, families may decide that it is better for dad to take time off to care for a new child or sick family member so that mom may keep her more secure job, or continue to make a full-rate wage.  Many employers in harder-hit industries may also favor unpaid paternity leave as a short-term way to cut costs without laying-off employees.

The second reason we are likely to see some changes in dads’ experience at the workplace and on leave is due to the new administration and a Democratic-dominated Congress.  Not only are the President and First Lady the first working parents of young children to reside in the White House in recent years, but they have both expressed a commitment to the struggles of working families. Michelle Obama has advocated for sick leave for parents, flexible work hours for employees and on-site child care.  Mrs. Obama believes that allowing employees more flexibility will increase productivity, and so it is a win-win for employers and employees alike.

The idea of being required to provide more to employees during these tough economic times can make any employer nervous.  However, as mentioned with regard to paternity-leave, sometimes flexibility can also be affordable for employers.  This month, in honor of Father’s Day, we take a look at existing leave laws affecting working dads, as well as proposed legislation and offer a few helpful tips for our clients and friends.

To read the rest of our article, including its analysis of existing and proposed laws and its guidance as to how employers can prepare for changes, please click here.

Thanks to Laura N. Althouse and Jonathan Strauhal for researching and writing this article.

  
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