Last March, Canada’s “use-it-or-lose-it” law, which allows for extended parental leave for the non-birthing parent in two-parent families, went into effect.
If that incentive wasn’t enough to encourage dads to take parental leave, there’s this: new research says dads who go on paternity leave increase the chances that their relationship will last longer.
The American study, published in the Journal of Social Policy last November, found that fathers who took two weeks or less of parental leave were 25 per cent less likely to see their relationship end in the first six years following the birth of their child, compared to fathers who did not take any leave.
Currently, the majority of Canadian parental leave claims come from women, who make up about 85 per cent of the total, CTV reports.
Parental leave can strengthen bonds
Researchers found that apart from helping strengthen parents’ bonds with their children, the benefits of the non-birthing parent taking time off work after their child is born extends into their relationship with their partner, too.
Richard Petts, a professor of sociology at Ball State University in Indiana who worked on the study, told The Globe and Mail that, “If nothing else, it’s a symbolic gesture that [says], ‘Hey, I’m going to prioritize my family and work isn’t everything.’
“Even that signals a commitment on the part of fathers to make family a priority, which has long-term consequences for parental relationships.”
However, researchers found that taking three weeks or more of leave didn’t seem to affect relationship stability.
Dr. Michael Kaufman, a Toronto-based author of The Time Has Come: Why Men Must Join The Gender Equality Revolution, told HuffPost Canada in a previous interview that dads who take advantage of parental leave “establish a life-long pattern of caregiving and nurturing. The father who takes parental leave develops much more quickly the confidence that there isn’t a single job, other than breastfeeding, that he can’t do well, and as well as a mother can do.”
“It’s also important for that mother to know that their child is in good hands,” he added.
Greater financial stability
The study’s researchers found that fathers who took parental leave “may reduce the burden on mothers.” This can look like a mother going back into the workforce when they choose to and strengthening her earning potential, easing her caregiving duties, and relieving her household workload.
And when she goes back to work, the federal government is actively doing its part in trying to create gender equality in the workplace. Unlike the U.S., which gives new mothers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, Canadian parents can take up to 78 weeks of parental leave and up to 86 weeks when the leave is shared.
The “use-it-or-lose-it” benefit gives the “other parent” in two-parent families the option of taking an additional five weeks of paid parental leave when parents share the benefits, or an additional eight weeks for those who choose the extended parental benefit option.
“Encouraging all parents to be engaged in full-time caregiving for their infants will help to create greater financial security for women,” Maryam Monsef, minister of women and gender equality, said in a news release about the additional five-week parental sharing.
The new incentive seems to be working, too. The Globe and Mail reported that from March to October of 2018, 81,480 men took parental leave. This number increased to 96,940 during the same period in 2019, according to Statistics Canada.
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