Law Firms Lead in Prioritizing Paternity Leave

June 12, 2018

Father’s Day is coming up, and we wish all 73 million dads out there a very special day! According to the stats, many of you will receive ties, gardening tools, a gift card, or an electronic device. Some of you may even receive tickets to your favorite ballgame!

There’s a very special group of dads out there who might not be able to enjoy these gifts just yet: new and soon-to-be dads. We took a look at how times are changing for these new dads, and there’s one big issue on everyone’s minds: paternity leave. In the last few years, hearts and minds have shifted dramatically to make paternity leave an increasingly important issue. Major companies have begun offering more generous paternity leave benefits for new fathers, with the legal industry leading the pack. Many law firms now offer gender-neutral parental leave policies - and new dads are beginning to take them up on their offer.

According to a Department of Labor Policy Brief written in 2012, the benefits of paid parental leave are substantial. Fathers who take long parental leaves develop bonds with their children early on and demonstrate increased engagement in caring for their children in the long-term. They are also more likely to share domestic responsibilities with their co-parent. Unfortunately, access to paid parental leave is rare and fathers are less likely to take parental leave if their workplace culture is not supportive of it. But here’s the good news:

  • States are slowly beginning to offer paid parental leave. Currently, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and California require employers to offer paid parental leave.
  • Approximately 36% of law firms offer paid paternity leave, which is higher than the national average. The median paternity leave in law firms is 30 days.
  • More fathers in law firms are taking paternity leave, creating a supportive environment for new fathers and those transitioning back to work. There’s a general consensus that taking paternity leave has become less stigmatized for male attorneys.

So what should you do if you want to take paternity leave? First and foremost, know your employer’s parental leave policy. If your firm doesn’t offer paid leave, check to see if you qualify for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If your employer is too small to be covered by the FMLA, talk to your HR department. They might still allow you to take a leave of absence. Most importantly, communicate your needs upfront, and where possible, provide advance notice to your employer.

Best of luck to all you new dads out there, and Happy Father’s Day! Hopefully you can use the day to catch some zzz’s.

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Author Bio

Written by Angelica Cesario

Angelica is a Program Attorney with Lawline. She graduated cum laude from Amherst College in 2008 and holds a B.A. in Women's and Gender Studies and a Certificate in Latino and Latin American Studies. She received her J.D. from Columbia Law School in 2013 and is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey. Before joining Lawline, Angelica worked as a labor & employment litigation attorney. Outside of work, Angelica mentors a bright and funny high school student and serves on the Board of Directors of the TEAK Fellowship. During her free time, Angelica loves to read, try new foods, and spend time with her wife, daughter, and her dog, Scotty.

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