Where we're at
Obtaining paid leave can be a serious problem for new mothers in the United States, which lags well behind other countries in mandating maternity leave. (Out of 185 countries, the United States is just one of three without guaranteed maternity leave.)
Fathers get an even shorter end of the stick.
Just 70 countries worldwide guarantee that fathers receive paid leave after the birth of their children. And, not shockingly, the United States is not one of them.
According to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management, only 15% of American companies currently offer paid paternity leave, and even those organizations tend to cap paternity leave at only three weeks, according to Working Mother Magazine editorial director Jennifer Owens.
But that could soon change.
More and more companies are beginning to offer paid paternity leave, touting its personal and professional benefits. Blue State Digital, an online strategy consulting firm, in 2013 mandated six weeks of paid leave for both men and women—with three additional weeks for each year an employee remains at the firm, up to 12 weeks total.
A growing number of other companies have taken a similar approach. For instance, Google gives all new fathers 12 weeks of paid parental leave or 18 if the father is the primary caregiver, while Facebook offers 17 weeks in addition to subsidized day care.
The tech giants of Silicon Valley aren't the only ones harnessing paternity leave's benefits. Some of the world's largest financial firms are leaning in, too.
Bank of America, the second-largest bank in the United States, offers new fathers 12 weeks of paid leave and an additional 14 weeks of unpaid leave if they so request. Similarly, PricewaterhouseCoopers offers six weeks of leave—plus an additional two if the family has more than one child—and State Street gives four weeks that can be used whenever the father desires.
The benefits of offering leave
These industry titans are changing decades-old protocols, in part, because of the growing pool of research that suggests paid leave doesn't hurt companies' performance and can even offer engagement and retention benefits.
Since California's Paid Family Leave program became law in 2004, about 90% of surveyed California businesses say that productivity and profitability have stayed the same or improved, according to a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
A study from the Rutgers University Center for Women and Work and the National Partnership for Women & Families also found that offering paid leave can help reduce staff turnover.
Marie Danzing, Blue State's head of creative and delivery, told the Center for American Progress' ThinkProgress that offering a paid paternity leave policy has allowed the company to recruit and retain top talent and shows employees that the company is invested in their futures.
"People feel their company is committed to them in the long term, that their happiness and wellbeing is prioritized over short-term profit," she says. That commitment can create an "environment where you can really bring the best of yourself to work every day" and increases engagement and efficiency, Danzing adds.
And the implications of paid paternity leave aren't just good for business—they're good for family health and child development, too.
An analysis by the Institute for Women's Policy Research found that men who take leave from work are more likely to spend time with their newborn, which can decrease family stress and increase father-infant bonding.
Children of fathers who take paternity leave also are more likely to have stronger cognitive abilities, according to research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.
Scott Behson, a management professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University and author of a book on working fathers, cites evidence that fathers who take time off during their child's first days are likely to be more involved throughout his or her lifetime—which can lead to significant health benefits and less risk of getting into trouble.
"So paternity leave doesn't just help the family," Behson writes at Huffington Post, "it also helps our society."