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A fresh look at paternity leave: Why the benefits extend beyond the personal

McKinsey & Company




Influencing Gender Norms Workplace Gender Equality

Parental leave Paternity leave Workplace Gender Equality covid-19 Work-life balance

A fresh look at paternity leave: Why the benefits extend beyond the personal

A fresh look at paternity leave: Why the benefits extend beyond the personal

McKinsey & Company research on the impact of COVID-19 on families shows that women bear significant social and economic fallout from the crisis, even considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce entirely. It raises the question of how men can be supportive and use time off from work, such as paternity leave, to be more proactive at home—and how employers, in turn, can further support their employees who are working parents.

McKinsey posits: “To help reduce burnout among working mothers, what if more new fathers took on caregiving responsibilities in the home? What if they began making that commitment by taking paternity leave? And what if taking that time improved the home lives and work–life balance for fathers, while also making them feel more positive about their own careers and employers?”

Key Insights

  • Worldwide, 90 out of 187 countries offer statutory paid paternity leave, with almost four in 10 organizations (38%) providing paid leave above the statutory minimum. Despite this considerable shift in cultural and employer support of fathers, less than half take advantage of all the leave benefits offered to them.
  • Men who took paternity leave viewed it overwhelmingly as a positive experience: 100% were glad they took the leave and would do so again; 90% noticed an improvement in their relationship with their partner; and 20% felt that the risk of a career setback was the main downside but that the benefits outweighed that worry. One in four of the fathers wished that they had longer paid paternity leave.
  • Paternity leave can level the playing field for working mothers. Many fathers emerged from the experience feeling their time at home helped reduce stress on their partner/wife and allowed for her earlier return to the workforce. These fathers also noted that their leaves helped them to support their partners’ career goals and to minimise the negative impact on career.
  • Paternity leave allows fathers to set the foundation for a more equal distribution of responsibilities in the future, and can influence parents’ decisions about how to allocate resources to childcare, domestic work and paid work in later years.
  • Many of the fathers said they felt more motivated after taking leave and that they were considering staying in their organisation longer. They also said that the leave led them to change the way they work, becoming more productive and prioritising their time better.
  • Many men felt that their leave-taking could inspire others to make similar choices. Respondents noted three key conditions: a work culture that encourages taking leave (70%), policy support from their employer (63%), and an unaffected promotion timeline (30%). Providing a longer paid-leave period, offering more flexibility in the timing of the leave period, or increasing the level of financial support provided would help new fathers take the leave.

McKinsey limited their interviews to 130 new heterosexual fathers and their partners—mostly millennials in dual-career couples, with college degrees and financially stable jobs—across 10 countries, namely Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Iceland, Israel, Singapore, Sweden and the United States. However, other kinds of families facing similar challenges -may learn from the study—and the findings “extend equally to all.”

Read the full research paper on McKinsey & Company’s website.


In the Philippines, paternity leave—seven working days at full pay, applicable until the fourth child—is paid for by the employer. The Filipino male employee also has the option of up to seven days of “transferred” maternity leave from their spouse. Learn more about the state of paternity leave in the Philippines and the barriers to its uptake in this IW fact sheet.

In Indonesia, paternity leave for a married father—two working days at full pay for the birth/miscarriage of a child—is paid for by the employer. Civil servants are entitled to paternity leave of up to a month with basic pay. Learn why Indonesia has a low uptake of paternity leave, and how some private companies are signaling their support for men’s shared responsibility in domestic and care work in this IW fact sheet.

Gender-balanced parental leave policies are a reflection of slowly disappearing gender-specific specialisations in paid and unpaid work. Employers play a key role in normalising the uptake of fathers/partners taking parental leave and flexible working arrangements to meet caring responsibilities. Learn more about how OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries are leaning towards gender balanced parental leave in this Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) insight paper.

Finally, consider the reasons Why companies should advance parental leave.

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