July 8, 2014 — Since California began offering paid family leave to new parents 10 years ago this month, there has been a significant increase in the number of fathers taking time off of work under the law to care for a new child, the Sacramento Bee reports.
According to the Bee, 25,000 of the 135,000 California residents who participated in the paid family leave program during its first full year were men. Last year, 60,000 of the 190,000 Californians who participated in the program were men, according to state Employment Development Department statistics.
How Paid Family Leave Works
The paid leave law allows men and women to take up to six weeks of paid family leave after the birth of a child. Participants in the program collect up to 55% of their normal weekly earnings during that time period.
The state uses money from employee State Disability Insurance contributions to fund the program, and workers have the option to also contribute to a voluntary program. Although the law also allows workers to take paid family leave to care for a sick relative, nearly 90% of participants use it to care for a new child.
Impact of Family Leave
According to Next Generation Vice President Ann O'Leary, the increase in fathers taking leave after an infant is born "has a huge impact." She explained, "Research has found that when men bond with their babies at an early age, they end up having a close personal relationship with their children."
Ruth Milkman, a sociology professor at the CUNY Graduate Center, noted that while mothers and fathers sometimes take leave at the same time, fathers increasingly are taking their leave after the mother goes back to work in order to extend the time that a parent is home with the child. "Younger men are much more interested in work and family balance and all the rest of it. They want to be involved with their families," she said (Reese, Sacramento Bee, 7/7).