New Laws Give New Dads Paid Paternity Leave

There’s good news for working fathers across the globe who want time off to care for their newborns: Over the past year, paternity leave laws were added or expanded by a number of countries.

In Singapore, a new law kicked in on New Year’s Day that doubles the amount of paid paternity leave to two weeks. Working mothers also will be able to share up to four weeks of their paid maternity leave with their husbands beginning in July. Previously, they could only share one out of the 16 weeks allotted to them.

In addition to the six weeks now available under these two expanded laws, Singapore already guaranteed a week of paid child-care leave, as well as a week of unpaid infant-care leave. That means working fathers in Singapore will be eligible to get up to eight weeks off during the first year after the birth of a child.

The new paternity leave measures come as the government explores ways to encourage young couples to have babies. Singapore is hoping to avoid an economic crisis that’s taking shape due to its aging population. If current demographic trends continue unabated, soon there won’t be enough younger residents to replace those who have retired from the workforce.

In Ireland, a new law enacted last year gives working fathers two weeks’ paternity leave together with a new paternity benefit worth $252 a week—the same amount the Department of Social Protection pays mothers on maternity leave. "This is a positive development as Ireland has been way behind on paternity leave entitlements" and "will bring us in line with the minimum in many countries around Europe," the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (Ireland) said.

Israeli fathers also gained a new entitlement to paid paternity leave last year amounting to a total of six days, which includes the day of the child's birth. However, in order to gain support from the business community for the initiative, lawmakers were forced to make a concession that the six days will come at the expense of already existing leave entitlements—three days from the employee's annual sick leave and the other three from annual vacation days. If the father has no remaining vacation days, those days will be granted as unpaid leave.

Looking ahead, working fathers in Austria will receive paternity leave for the first time under a new law that takes effect on March 1. Employees will be eligible for up to 31 days of paternity leave provided they have worked for their company for at least 26 weeks.

In the United States, no federal law mandates paid paternity leave (or paid maternity leave, either), but the Family and Medical Leave Act allows covered employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of a child.

Nevertheless, the competition to attract and retain employees has prompted an increasing number of U.S. companies to roll out new leave benefits for new dads. Some examples include Facebook, eBay and Amazon, which now offer four months, 12 weeks and six weeks of paid paternity leave, respectively.

However, the most generous new plan belongs to Netflix, which allows working fathers to take unlimited leave during the first year after a child is born or adopted. One can only guess that having access to all the movies and other programming available from Netflix serves as a nice little bonus to help these employees pass the time as they care for their newborns.

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