Advocating Paid Leave for New Dads
The MenCare campaign promotes men’s participation in caregiving and fatherhood through building evidence and global advocacy on issues such as paid leave from work for new fathers. Supporting men to become more involved in young children’s lives is an effective way of improving child development outcomes and fostering more equal relationships between men and women in society at large.
A culture of support for paternity leave
Even in countries which have generous policies on maternity leave, to help new mothers to care for their children in the crucial early years, there is not yet sufficient appreciation of the need for fathers to get time off, too. Alexa Hassink, Communications Officer at Promundo, which coordinates the MenCare campaign, says:
In cultures all over the world, masculinity is defined by economic and career success while caregiving is seen as ‘women’s work’. Men can face significant social pressure against participating in their children’s lives. Men observe the challenges that mothers face in the workplace and fear similar repercussions to their careers as a result of taking leave: missed opportunities, lack of advancement, lower wages, or the perception that they are not committed to their jobs.
Even when leave entitlements for fathers are on the statute books, corporate culture often discourages new dads from taking up their legal entitlement.
The State of the World’s Fathers report
In 2016 the MenCare campaign launched the MenCare Parental Leave Platform, a ten-point plan calling on governments and employers to improve their policies on leave for new parents, with input from partners in 35 countries.
This followed the 2015 publication of the first-ever State of the World’s Fathers report, which garnered over 40 million mentions on social media and was reported in news outlets from The New York Times to Vanity Fair. The Clinton Foundation, the United Nations Population Fund and UN Women’s HeForShe campaign supported the launch of the report. The Bernard van Leer Foundation has backed the MenCare campaign financially since it was founded in 2011.
Successes and further engagement
Advocacy efforts are paying off, with Brazil and the Netherlands among the countries to have expanded legal entitlements to paternity leave. MenCare is also engaging directly with selected global employers, including Unilever and Danone, to encourage them to show leadership in creating a culture that encourages male employees to prioritise spending time with their young children.
“Providing paid leave is increasingly shown to help improve employee retention, increase morale and productivity, and reduce absenteeism and associated training costs”, says Hassink, pointing to growing evidence that – for employers – generosity on parental leave policies can make good business sense.