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A Royal Father Figure: Prince William Takes Paternity Leave

Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge pose with their baby boy outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital in LondonWhile women around the globe admire The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, for rocking her post-pregnancy pooch in a fetching polka-dot teal dress by designer Jenny Packman (the dress isn’t for sale, but fans that didn’t keep fans from crashing the designer’s website searching for it), men now have a reason to applaud the Royal Couple too. Yahoo Shine reports that Prince William is taking two weeks of paternity leave from his position with the Royal Air Force, piloting search and rescue helicopters.

British law is significantly more forward thinking in regard to maternity and paternity leave than statutes in the States, first because it even includes fathers in the equation. In the U.S., there is no nationwide, federally subsidized paternity leave policy, though a few states, like California, offer one. The Family Medical Leave Act only requires employees of a certain size to offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave to new mothers and fathers. In other words, your job will be protected during the time you take off to be with your new child, but you won’t be compensated for it, at least not by the United States government.

As for U.S. companies providing the perk on their own accord, a recent article in Forbes reports that only 13% of companies do so. As Jessica Grose writes on Slate’s Double X Factor, tech companies across the board offer the best policies Facebook, Google, Instagram, Microsoft, Reddit, Pinterest, Twitter, and Yahoo. (Yahoo made news in April when it began offering men eight weeks of paid paternity leave, half that of what women can take on maternity leave.) Reddit, with less than twenty-five employees, isn’t isn’t federally required to provide paternity leave at all, but has chosen to do so — very cool.

Policies in Britain are significantly more robust than in the States. Under a 2003 law, all men are guaranteed two weeks of paid leave. (The military will give Prince William his full pay for that period, though the law only requires employees get about 137 pounds, which is about $206.) According to CBS News, only two-thirds of British men take some paternity leave, and less than half actually take the full two weeks.

The case is the same here in the States, sadly. As I’ve written about before, many American men who have the option of taking paternity also decide not to do it.

Hey, blokes we’re only talking about two weeks! (Or should I say a fortnight?) That’s not very long at all. Two months seems a more reasonable amount of time to me, significant enough that the new mom can recover from the birth, and for both parents to adjust to the new rhythms of their baby, and also bond, before having to think about returning to work.

The laws in England are changing to become even better for new dads, as they can now share some of their wive’s paid maternity leave (women get 39 weeks, not at full salary). And Parliament is discussing expanding this to 50 weeks of leave which both parents can split. Though how many will choose to take it? I hope that British men follow the lead of Prince William and spend at least those first, precious few weeks of their new child’s life at home with their family.

I’d also like to see the prince spend some time with Prince George on solo-dad duty. Even a short amount of time as primary caregiver leaves a big, lasting impact on father and child! And it’s important for the public at large to see people they admire making fatherhood a priority in their lives.

Of course, my big hope is that U.S. follows England’s lead, but we all know that’s unlikely. First, because of the political situation in this country — an environment in which we talk about cuts and austerities, and not expanded protections or incentives. And also, let’s be real here, we still don’t like thinking that Britain is ahead of us in anything! Old rivalries die hard. Just like old ideas about gender, and the role that father’s play in their children’s lives, change slowly.

But hey, at least they seem to be changing. Cheers for contributing to that, Prince William.

Photo Credit: PacificCoastNews.com

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