The Importance of Paternity Leave

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While the questions of parental leave is most frequently considered in the light of a woman’s ability to take time off from work after giving birth, the importance of paternity leave must also be considered. Social norms still prioritize a man’s commitment to work above his time commitment to his family, and so taking time off can be difficult. However, a man’s use, or non-use, of parental leave can impact his relationship with his child, as well as the well-being of the child’s mother, and the couple’s relationship as a whole. Additionally, the frequency of use of paternal leave impacts gender equality in the workplace and society.


The question of parental leave first became an issue as maternity leave when women began to enter the labor force, in increasing numbers during the 1960s. At this time, it was legal, and common, for women to experience employment discrimination in response to pregnancy and childbirth. Women could be refused employment if pregnant. They could be fired for becoming pregnant while employed. A company could refuse to allow a woman who had worked throughout pregnancy to return to work after giving birth. In 1978, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This Act established that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII. The Act applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

The next consideration was the cost of child care. The federal tax code was changed so that in 1976 families were permitted to take a tax credit for dependent care costs. This tax credit functioned to increase the affordability of child care, supporting the possibility ...

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