Why turning down your paternal leave is a huge mistake

Wendy Curlett is a fully CIPD-qualified HR Professional and the managing director and of Safety Services Direct, an H&S advisory and HR consultancy.
should i take paternity leave


Paternal leave is a hot topic in workplaces worldwide, and rightly so. While maternity leave has been a longstanding and accepted practice, paternity leave continues to be contested. Not only legally but through harmful stereotypes that cause many men to reject the paternity leave they’re offered. However, this period is, after all, a time to connect with your partner and newborn baby, which is a distinctly human experience, not one dictated by your gender.

If you are offered paternal leave, take it. The reasons for doing so go far beyond spending time with your loved ones. Wendy from Safety Services Direct shares why turning down paternal leave is a colossal mistake for working dads and how embracing this opportunity benefits families and contributes to the broader societal shift towards gender equality.

Breaking stereotypes

Traditionally, the responsibility of newborn care has been primarily placed on mothers, perpetuating the stereotype that women are the primary caregivers. However, societal norms are evolving, and the importance of fathers in child-rearing is gaining recognition. Turning down paternal leave perpetuates the notion that childcare is solely a mother’s responsibility, hindering progress toward equal parenting roles.

Strengthening the case for paternal leave

By taking full advantage of paternal leave, working dads can actively contribute to breaking down gender barriers in the workplace. Accepting and embracing this leave sends a powerful message: fathers are equally committed to their family responsibilities. This not only challenges outdated gender norms but also strengthens the case for paternal leave, which will hopefully lead to better rights in this area.

Fostering acceptance

One of the main hurdles preventing many working dads from taking paternal leave is the fear of judgment or perceived weakness in their commitment to their careers. However, by stepping up and taking leave without hesitation, fathers pave the way for a more inclusive and accepting workplace culture. The more men normalise and embrace paternal leave, the less stigma there will be surrounding it, creating a more supportive environment for all parents.

Promoting equal parenting

Paternal leave is not just about taking time off work; it’s about actively participating in the early stages of your child’s life. By doing so, fathers contribute to the development of a strong bond with their children, setting the stage for a lifetime of shared responsibilities. Equal parenting benefits both partners, fostering a more balanced and fulfilling family life.

The legal side

More and more countries now recognise the importance of fathers’ involvement in childcare and are enacting laws that support paternal leave. Turning down the leave granted to you means losing out on leave you’re fully entitled to. In addition, by taking advantage of these legal provisions, working dads not only fulfil their family responsibilities but also contribute to the broader conversation about the need for inclusive and comprehensive paternal leave policies.

Beyond traditional norms

Families come in diverse forms, and paternal leave extends beyond heterosexual couples. Same-sex couples, like any other family unit, also benefit enormously from taking time off to nurture their newborns.

The stereotypical gender norms mentioned earlier are not only limiting for heterosexual couples but can be even more challenging for LGBTQ+ parents. By embracing paternal leave, individuals in same-sex relationships actively challenge preconceived notions about family responsibilities and contribute to a more inclusive society while also getting the opportunity to spend time with their new family member.

Ready to take your paternity leave?

Many working dads turn down their leave because they fear professional discrimination, missed career advancements, and societal stereotypes. These fears highlight the profoundly ingrained and damaging gender norms that persist, even now. However, it is precisely by confronting and challenging these stereotypes that dads have the opportunity to contribute to a broader societal shift!

By embracing this time to be actively involved in newborn care, fathers not only challenge outdated gender norms but also play a crucial role in promoting equality within and outside the workplace. It’s time for working dads to lead by example, paving the way for a future where paternal leave is not just a choice but a right for everyone.

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