Parenting leave: which ‘architecture’ works best for children?

29 October 2013

What is the ideal design of parenting leave (maternity, paternity and parental leave) in high, middle and low income countries? As governments across the world battle with this conundrum, the Fatherhood Institute offers a considered analysis.

In Parenting Leave Arrangements: Which ‘Architecture’ is Best for Children? we explore evidence on parenting leave design and policies, relating mainly to high income countries (especially in the Global North), focusing particularly on how to deliver the greatest benefits for young children (pre-natal up to 8) in terms of their learning and health, and in relation to the prevention of, and response to, domestic violence and child maltreatment. We also consider how such designs and policies might translate in middle and low-income countries (mainly in the Global South).

We find that to bring the greatest benefits, parenting leave design must walk a tight-rope between providing for the health and welfare needs of mothers and infants without marking women down as uniquely responsible for caring for children; and that therefore it is best if much of the birth-related leave is available to mothers without being limited to uptake by them. What is to be avoided is (i) a huge differential between the leave available to mothers and fathers; (ii) the perception that only mothers are entitled to the bulk of leave; and (iii) low uptake of available leave by men.

With this in mind, we suggest that an optimum leave design involves reserved leave for mothers (possibly called Maternity Leave) before the birth and up to around four weeks after it; around two weeks’ birth-and-post-birth leave for fathers (possibly called Paternity Leave); and thereafter, Flexible Parental Leave (for a minimum of 12 weeks, with an aspiration of 6-9 months or more; well-paid; and with reserved periods for mothers and fathers). We also consider options for ‘nudging’ fathers towards taking parenting leave.

Download Parenting Leave Arrangements as a PDF

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One Comment »

  • nongenderbias9 says:

    Dear Fatherhood Institute

    It is good that you have identified the need for increased paternal leave, although father should have a considerable amount of time with his children without the mother present. The bonding that goes on in the early and formative years is special when it is exclusively between father and child. Under the present system mother has a lot of exclusive time without father present (i.e. he is ostensibly out working hard to provide for his family).
    I don’t like your comments visa vie domestic violence and men. This is irrelevant and grossly unfair. It may be to appease the feminists, I don’t know. The fact is more children are abused by the mother and the change in legislation you are suggesting may go some way to relieving her of added pressures by putting more of the child caring responsibilities with the father.
    I don’t like the part where you suggest paternity leave should be available to father OR mothers new partner. We fathers are not interchangeable at the whim of the mother. That is part of the problem. Mother has far too much power to pick and choose which male she chooses to be father irrespective of who is the real father.
    Transferrable paternity leave is equally as valid as transferrable maternity leave and would help to make childcare an equal reponsibility.

    Kind regards

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