MLB Players: Don’t Put Me in, Coach, I’m on Paternity Leave

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By Carmen Castro-Pagan

Could Major League Baseball players have a role in convincing new dads it’s OK to take some time off for the birth or adoption of a child?

The MLB has had a paternity leave policy for six years now and in that time, more than 150 players have been placed on MLB’s Paternity Leave List, according to an analysis by Bloomberg BNA of daily MLB transactions reported by ESPN.

That MLB has paternity leave that players often use may be influential and make others feel more comfortable about taking leave, Scott Behson, a professor of management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, told Bloomberg BNA.

Although more and more employers are offering paid parenting leave to their workers, there still remains a stigma for men who take the leave. According to a Deloitte survey, one in three men say they won’t take advantage of their employer’s paid parenting leave because they believe their jobs would be in jeopardy.

MLB is the only sports league to have implemented a paternity leave policy, according to Behson. Prior to 2011, there was an informal arrangement between a team manager and player but it didn’t allow the team to bring an extra player to the roster to replace the one on leave, Behson, the author of “The Working Dad’s Survival Guide,” said.

That all changed in 2011 when the player’s union negotiated a paternity leave policy that allows players up to three days to be present for the birth of a child.

On average, 25 MLB players take advantage of the leave policy each year. In the first month of MLB’s 2017 season, eight players--including Washington Nationals all-star pitcher Stephen Strasburg--took paternity leave.

Some may question why well-paid MLB players should get paternity leave. “Sometimes we look at ballplayers as people that don’t have the kind of responsibilities other people have,” Behson said. But the culture has changed sufficiently that we now recognize the importance of paternity leave in all industries, he said.

Ellen Bravo of Family Values@Work agrees. We will continue to see growth in the number of companies that offer paid parental leave, but there are many small companies that can’t do it on their own and many big companies that won’t do it on their own, said Bravo, who is an advocate for national paid family leave.

Corporate paternity leave policies are evolving in the U.S., and many companies are focused on increasing the access to paid leave and its length, according to a recent Special Report by Fatherly, a parenting resource for men.

MLB’s leave policy giving players one to three days of leave is dwarfed by those of some major companies that recently expanded paid paternity leave. Netflix, for example, offers a full year of paid paternity leave. Other tech companies, such as Etsy, Spotify, Twitter and Facebook, offer leaves ranging from 17 weeks to 26 weeks.

In the finance industries, companies such as American Express and Bank of America are offering 20 and 16 weeks of paternity leave, respectively.

In tech and finance, men are becoming more comfortable with taking leave, Behson said.

The fact is that MLB players and tech and finance employees are fortunate, but there are many hourly working fathers who aren’t offered or aren’t able to take paternity leave, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carmen Castro-Pagan in Washington at ccastro-pagan@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bna.com

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