- Unilever USA, under its Dove Men+Care brand, launched The Pledge for Paternity Leave to bolster paid leave for fathers on Tuesday, encouraging new and expectant dads, business owners and allies to sign the pledge. Unilever will commit $1 million through 2020 to fathers and their families across the country who lack access to paid paternity leave, the announcement said. The company also said each pledge will be a sign that dads can and should feel secure when asking for paid paternity leave and that families, workplaces and communities benefit when dads take paid leave.
- Citing various studies, Unilever said fewer than 1 in 5 men in the U.S. have employer-sponsored paid paternity leave, and among those fathers with access to paid leave, many don't think they can take full time, if any at all, to take care of their newborn. Half of dads in a May 2018 joint Dove and Promundo study said they should take paternity leave, but three-quarters said they had little workplace support to do so. About 70% of dads in the same study said they would change jobs to be more involved in their newborn or adopted child's first weeks and months.
- "By supporting this important initiative, our goal is to increase utilization rates of paid paternity leave for those men who have access to it and encourage other companies to come together and offer men paid paternity leave so they can take the time to care for their families," Nick Soukas, VP of skin cleansing and baby care for Unilever, said in a statement. Unilever encouraged eligible fathers to apply for the fund for a chance to receive a $5,000 grant.
About 40% of companies offer paid parental leave for both birth and non-birth parents, a recent Mercer study showed. However, mothers still receive most of the allotted leave time — a sign that women are still seen as the default primary caregivers in their families.
A balance in caregiving responsibilities between mothers and fathers is a wider societal issue. But companies can relieve women of some of the heavy lifting of caregiving and the stigma of disloyalty experienced by mothers by offering fathers more weeks of leave, some employment specialists suggest.
Denying fathers the same amount of paid paternity leave granted to mothers can trigger lawsuits. Cosmetic company Estee Lauder Companies Inc. settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for $1.1 million for denying men the same amount of paid bonding time off as women. EEOC guidance specifically notes that while birth mothers can receive additional medical leave for pregnancy and recovery, bonding leave must be equally offered to men and women.
Paid family leave is a favored benefit among workers, especially millennials, according to a 2018 Unum report. Supporting more paid leave for dads not only benefits families, but may also be the deciding factor for candidates choosing between job offers. That could give employers the edge they need to compete for talent in a tight labor market.