- When fathers have access to workplace flexibility after the birth of a child, mothers experience fewer physical postpartum health problems and improved mental health, according to research from the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
- The report analyzes data based on leave practices in Sweden. Just before a Swedish social insurance reform, the country allowed up to 16 months of job-protected leave per child to be split between both parents. Parents were not allowed to take leave simultaneously, however. In 2012, "Double Days" reform allowed parents to use their time off together for up to 30 days during each child's first year, a change that increased workplace flexibility for fathers, the study said.
- Data revealed this change made for a 14% "reduction in mothers having an inpatient or specialist outpatient visit for childbirth-related complications," and an 11% decrease in their need for antibiotic prescription drugs in the first six months after the birth. An increase in maternal post-partum mental health was evidenced by a 26% reduction in the use of anti-anxiety prescription drugs during the same time period.
This research may have assessed data gathered in a foreign country, but its conclusions appear to resonate with the momentum surrounding parental leave in the United States. Ernst & Young, for example, found that turnover among women declined after it granted fathers the same amount of paid parental leave as it did mothers — 16 weeks.
Still, as companies like EY update their parental leave programs to better serve mothers and fathers — and, in many cases, to boost business by making leave a more enticing recruitment, retention and engagement tool — women face quite a challenge when they take on the roles of working professional and working parent. A Merrill Lynch and Age Wave study revealed women are 10 times more likely than their partners to temporarily leave the workforce following the birth of a child. Even as motherhood boosts a working woman's leadership skills, the "motherhood penalty" remains, according to Bright Horizons' Modern Family Index.