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Why New Moms And Dads Aren’t Taking Their Paid Parental Leave

Source | FastCompany : By Lydia Dishman

Paid parental leave is a polarizing benefit. Perhaps that’s why so many workers with children say they’ve never taken it.

A new report from the recruiting platform Jobvite found that 56% of the job seekers with children surveyed have never taken parental leave. The majority (87%) who did take time off said that they took less than 12 weeks (the standard unpaid amount of time off allowed by the Family Medical Leave Act).

Plenty Of Talk, Little Action

It’s not for lack of publicity. Paid parental leave has made news on the recent presidential campaign trail as candidates point out how the U.S. lags behind other developed nations when it comes to offering workers a range of benefits that includes paid parental leave alongside vacation, health care, and unemployment protections. The media has also covered stories about companies large and small—particularly in the tech sector—that have taken up the slack by creating and implementing paid parental leave plans of their own.

Although research indicates that offering paid leave doesn’t affect a company’s profitability or performance, it’s still a tough sell to businesses: Currently only 12% of U.S. employees get it, according to government data. Yet even if it is offered at their workplace, there is no guarantee that employees will take it.

Lots Of Time Off Left On The Table

Jobvite’s data offers some insight into who’s not taking it and why this particular benefit isn’t being used. It’s part of a larger report called the “Job Seeker Nation Study” that was conducted by polling company Inc. on behalf of Jobvite. The nationwide online survey of 2,305 adults (over age 18), of whom 1,386 were U.S. employees, asked about attitudes toward future job opportunities and the use of social networks and mobile devices to find jobs, among other questions. The data were weighted so the demographics of this audience closely match the nationwide population of adults (ages 18+) with respect to gender, age, and region.

Drilling down into the survey data reveals that not only did a majority of parents take less time off than they were offered, 26% said they took off less than two weeks total. Unsurprisingly, 36% of men reported shorting themselves on time off to be with their new sons or daughters, but 32% of men said they took between 2–6 weeks off. That number dropped to 22% for 7–12 weeks of paternity leave. It turns out that Mark Zuckerberg is among the minority with his two-month hiatus before returning to Facebook.

Women fall squarely into the mid-range for maternity leave, with the greatest percentage (36%) reporting they take between 2–6 weeks and 31% taking 7–12 weeks off. Once again, a prominent tech CEO falls into the minority: Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer, who gave birth to twins in December, announced that she’d take “limited time away” because of an uncomplicated pregnancy and the demands of a company undergoing a “transformation.” Mayer only took two weeks off after the birth of her first child.

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