Jonathan Durishin can count on one hand the number of days off he took between the birth of his first son and going back to work.
Durishin hadn’t yet graduated from nursing school when his son William, now 15, was born, and his supervisors weren’t willing to give him any additional time off to spend with his family.
But when his son Grant was born in December 2015, the nurse case manager at the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University had a completely different experience.
Durishin took 10 weeks of paid paternity leave, a combination of time off available from Ohio State and the Family and Medical Leave Act, a federal law that protects an employee’s job for up to 12 weeks after childbirth or adoption.
Those weeks at home with his wife, Jennifer, and Grant gave Durishin the time he needed to bond and relax together with his family, and he’s grateful for the time. But Durishin knows he was lucky.
“I’m the only male in my department, and the staff was always very supportive of taking that time off,” said Durishin, 50, of Dublin. “But for males in other departments, I think the culture is much more ‘Dude, get back to work.'”
About 90% of fathers typically take time off work for the birth or adoption of a child, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Of those fathers, though, 70% took only 10 days or less.
Studies show that fathers who take longer paternity leaves experience increased bonding and engagement with their children, and better health and development outcomes, the Labor Department says. They also experience higher satisfaction with parenting while achieving more equity in the home and workplace.
Businesses also benefit from offering paid parental leave, said Jessica Lee, an attorney at the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of Law. Giving parents time away from work for paternity leave lowers a company’s employee turnover rate and increases employee morale and productivity, she said.
“It’s good for everyone,” Lee said.
Unlike most other countries, the United States offers only one federal program that assures new parents leave from work, the Family and Medical Leave Act. And it’s for unpaid time and applies just to certain employees.
The burden to provide paid parental leave then falls to states, cities and companies, Lee said. Only three states — California, New Jersey and Rhode Island — provide an equal amount of paid family leave to both mothers and fathers.
A number of central Ohio businesses and universities offer paid parental leave, many ranging from two to 16 weeks.
CoverMyMeds offers child-birthing parents 12 weeks of paid leave and non-child-birthing parents four weeks off, with the option to take additional paid time off. Nationwide Insurance increased the number of days of paid leave it offers new parents last year to 20 consecutive days off, up from 10.
Geben Communications, a public relations firm in central Ohio, introduced its paid-leave policy in April 2016, company President Heather Whaling said. New moms and dads can take 10 weeks of paid time off, plus an additional two-week transition period back to work.
“If we believe in equal pay for men and women, then I think we should believe in equal pay in benefits,” Whaling said. “New dads deserve that time to bond with their baby.”
Five mothers at Geben have used the policy since 2016. Devin Hughes, the company’s director of client services, will be the company’s first dad to take paternity leave in October when he and his wife, Erin, are expecting their first child.
Hughes, 30, of Powell, said having 10 weeks off will allow him to be there when his son is born and help shoulder more of the parental responsibilities, something he thinks gets ignored in unequal parental-leave policies.
“When you’re offering equal leave to dads, you’re pushing back against those outdated gender roles that assume the mother is the primary caregiver,” Hughes said. “By providing that equity in the leave, it’s not just on the mom.”
Whaling agreed. Policies that offer more time for moms than dads, she said, reinforce “this antiquated standard that women are the primary caregivers and men are the primary breadwinners.”
JPMorgan Chase recently settled a $5 million class-action lawsuit on behalf of male employees who said they were unlawfully denied access to paid parental leave on the same terms as mothers from 2011 to 2017.
Derek Rotondo, a Blacklick resident, filed the suit against Chase after he requested 16 weeks of “primary caregiver” leave after his son was born in June 2017. In his complaint, Rotondo said he was told only mothers could take 16 weeks paid parental leave, while fathers could take only two weeks unless the mother was incapacitated or working.
Chase gave Rotondo the full 16 weeks of leave after he filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the company clarified its policy in December 2017 to ensure both men and women had the same right to be their child’s main caregiver.
Lee said men have brought 28% of complaint cases linked to caring for children, and there’s been a 336% increase in the number of paternity-leave cases nationwide from 2006 to 2016, according to a Center for WorkLife Law study.
It’s partly due to a generational shift, Lee said, with younger men placing a greater value on spending time with their families and being an equal caretaker. In 2016, 82% of men ages 18-29 said fathers should receive paid paternity leave, compared with 61% of men ages 50-64.
Lee said it’s promising to see politicians on both side of the aisle taking a stand for paid parental leave. When a national policy will come is uncertain, but Lee hopes it happens in the next decade.
Durishin hopes so, too.
“I think dads can kind of be put on the back burner and viewed as not as participatory or important in the parental team,” he said. “Taking parental leave and having that time with your newborn says, ‘Yes, I will be an equal teammate in this.'”