Dads, Paternity Leave, and Government Mandates

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The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) passed in 1993 provides (among other things) 12 weeks of unpaid leaves to moms and dads to care for their newborns. During the last quarter century, companies such as Facebook, Twitter and American Express have added paid leave as a job benefit. Nonetheless, men hesitate to take the leave, fearing that time off the job would hurt their careers and be seen as a lack of commitment to the company. Women are more likely to take leave but many struggle with the same concerns, according to a recent Deloitte survey (https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/about-deloitte/us-about-deloitte-paternal-leave-survey.pdf).

The survey provides several additional interesting findings. Not surprisingly, 54% of the respondents said that their coworkers would judge males more harshly than females for taking the leave. Half of the respondents said they would prefer more parental leave to a pay raise. This is another way of saying that they would rather work less for less money.

So, is paid paternity leave a good idea? Perhaps, but it depends on who gets to decide. Those on the political left use surveys like this one to justify their calls for more government regulation. To be clear, governments should NOT mandate any form of paid leave, as doing so inflicts costs on businesses that should be managed by the owners. But this doesn’t mean that providing paid leave is a bad idea. Many companies offer leave and other benefits to retain top employees. Indeed, 77% of respondents in the survey said that paid parental leave is a factor in employment decisions. Companies offering paid leave tout “corporate social responsibility” as the impetus for doing so, but it’s often just good business.

The beauty of the free market is that companies can try different approaches—new products, lower prices, pay more or less, and so on—and stick with what is most effective. Best practices are usually adopted by other companies, all by choice. For example, McDonald’s is using kiosks to take orders in many of its restaurants instead of hiring more workers. This is probably a good idea long term, but the results will speak for themselves and competitors will follow suit when doing so makes economic sense for them. The same is true for paternity leave. Like the minimum wage and health care, we will be better off if governments leave business decisions to investors who are risking their own funds in the marketplace. The market already provides incentives for them to do the right thing.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. zone44  •  Jul 13, 2018 @3:11 PM

    Men are programmed to work and provide. Most will not take leave. Agree that government should stay out of it. Let companies do what they want.

  2. charlotte  •  Jul 14, 2018 @8:04 AM

    Parental leave costs money so companies aren’t likely to invest in it without help. What if the government reimbursed half the cost? That would encourage companies to do the right thing without a new regulation.

  3. diggerj  •  Jul 15, 2018 @9:42 AM

    that IS a new regulation. a bureaucrat has to make sure companies follow the rule, deal with complaints from workers, determine what the cost is, etc. taxpayers have to pay for it. like zone44 says, keep government out of it.