My daughter’s mental health started to get worse about halfway through the first...read more
If America enacts parental leave legislation that will help working dads it will be a huge step forward in the movement to recognise the needs and desires of men and their families.
The working dads agenda may be about to conquer its final frontier.
The USA is getting on board.
Currently, any league table of the best countries to be a parent is led by Scandinavian countries inevitably. Then it’s generally developed, industrialised nations in Europe and ‘the West’. Japan and South Korea boast generous policies but the working culture mitigates against take up.
The global south tends to have more pressing concerns so those nations are at the bottom of the league.
Then comes America. It looks terribly out of place. But with no legal right to paid parental leave the USA comes last along with Suriname and Papau New Guinea.
Most working dads in America take an average of five days off after their child is born. But that will be annual leave rather than dedicated paternity leave. And with some dads in the US taking as much as 90 days off if they work for a particularly enlightened employer calculating that average must take into account an awful lot of men taking even less than a week off. (One in four US mums is back at work within a fortnight of giving birth.)
However American working dads have an unlikely hero – Ivanka Trump.
She’s keen on parental leave. And yes, despite her dad appearing to be less than progressive, the White House is not only focussing on mothers. It is inching closer to making big changes on parental leave.
Clearly this won’t impact working dads in the UK.
But it’s a huge signifier of which way the tide is moving. Family friendly workplaces are becoming the norm. And that includes a recognition of fathers as part of that.
It’s no coincidence that Donald Trump is up for re-election in 2020. Parental rights are increasingly becoming an electoral issue. After early signs of hope in our own general election family friendly policies were sidelined by Brexit. But the fact that Trump’s team are highlighting their desire to improve the situation for American parents shows again that this is a global trend to take families and their needs seriously.
The new legislation in the US will give federal workers a right to 12 weeks of paid parental leave. Could be better. But literally an infinite improvement on zero.
And just as Shared Parental Leave over here has not been a huge success in bald terms. It has sent a signal and encouraged industry to look again at what it offers parents. When I spoke to bosses at Aviva recently, winners of our Best for Dads trophy last month, they admitted that the Shared Parental Leave legislation of 2015 played a big part in their thinking as they drew up a much more generous and successful policy of their own.
And that leadership role extends beyond borders in the case of America.
Despite the White House being currently occupied by a buffoon the fact remains that the US is a global leader not just economically but culturally. Other nations looking to ape the success of the American economy may well draw the conclusion that bare bones workers rights is the way to get there.
This legislation will go some way to changing that.
And of course many companies in the US offer their employees impressive benefits packages. Most notably the banks of New York and the whizzy tech firms of California. But when a nation endorses the rights of fathers to spend time with their children it carries significantly more cultural and moral heft.
As Ivanka said last week, “As the country’s largest employer, we must lead by example, and after decades, are finally doing so,”