IBI Benchmarking Analytics Series: Are More New Fathers Taking FMLA Leave for Bonding?

IBI members frequently request information that is not included in the standard benchmarking reports. When IBI can provide an answer that may be of interest to other members, we make the results available in a series of analytic findings.

In July 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that paid parental leave is separate from medical time off for childbirth and that employers that offer paid parental leave must do so for men and women on equal terms (sometimes referred to as the parity rule). This may partly explain why many companies announced expanded parental leave benefits in 2015 and 2016. 1

Since many companies run their Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leaves concurrently with other time-off benefits, an IBI member asked whether more men have taken FMLA leaves for bonding with a newborn or newly adopted child ("bonding leaves").

Study highlights

  • The incidence rate of bonding leaves since the EEOC ruling in 2014 is similar to rates observed prior to the ruling.
  • The share of men taking FMLA leave to bond with a new child increased by 50% over the period 2013 to 2017. Importantly, the increase began after 2014, which is consistent with the argument that the EEOC rule encouraged employers to enhance parental leave benefits in ways that made time off more attractive for men.
  • A counterargument that men generally increased their FMLA leave-taking relative to women is not supported. The share of men taking leave for their own or a family member's health condition has increased by only 3% since 2014.
  • The increase in fathers' bonding leaves may also be influencing FMLA duration patterns among new mothers. Bonding leave durations have decreased since 2015 for both men and women, but the decline among new mothers has been greater. This may indicate that new parents are balancing their time away from work, with women taking shorter leaves as more men use job-protected time off for bonding.

Author Details

Skyler Parry – Program Director, Integrated Benefits Institute
Rico Lin – Data Analyst, Integrated Benefits Institute

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