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  • Writer's pictureScott Behson

Prince William to Take Paternity Leave When the Royal Baby is Born

Update- Royalbaby is born! everyone is healthy. Congrats to the happy couple.

Prince William will take a two-week paternity leave from the Royal Air Force upon the birth of RoyalBaby. Fathers in the UK are legally entitled to a paid two-week paternity leave. What British law and the Prince’s public act can mean for US dads.

Cheers to the happy couple! I hope William's paternity leave can be a time of important family bonding (AP Photo/ Nicolas Asfouri)

Cheers to the happy couple! I hope William’s paternity leave can be a time of important family bonding (AP Photo/ Nicolas Asfouri)

With the UK (and plenty of us here across the pond) awaiting the birth of Alexandra or James, Prince William is about to make work-family history, as well.

From the NY Daily News:

After the arrival of the royal child comes the royal paternity leave. It seems only natural, but Prince William is poised to do something no top British royal has ever done. The prince, like any other new British dad, is entitled to two weeks off  from work once his wife, Kate Middleton, delivers their first born. William, 31, would become the first senior member of the royal family to  receive paternity leave since it was introduced in Britain a decade ago. His day job is working search-and-rescue for the Royal Air Force.

Good for you, Prince William, and for you, RAF*, and for you, United Kingdom, for helping make paternity leave a normal and expected part of work life for fathers.

Maybe the media attention on the paternity leave (albeit a very small percentage of the overall wall-to-wall media coverage of RoyalBaby) can be of help, both in the UK and across the pond here in the Colonies.

In the UK– as Zach Rosenberg recently reported, most new dads in the UK are prevented by hospital rules from staying overnight with their wives/newborns. This policy is currently being challenged, and maybe the Prince’s paternity leave can lend it some sort of Royal approval.

In the US– As you can see in this chart, we’re one of 4 out of 178 countries (and the only Western or industrialized nation) to not have a law mandating paid parental leave. US law only requires that a new parent can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, and have their job held for them, through the Family and Medical Leave Act). Only California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have mandated paid parental leave. Over 50 countries, including the UK, require paid paternity leave; the US, not so much.

A comparison of legally mandated parental leave policies across many countries. Notice the outlier country here- the USA

A comparison of legally mandated parental leave policies across many countries. Notice the outlier country here- the USA

Perhaps work-family advocates in government and in corporate America can use the attention given to UK policy to generate momentum for changes to employment law and workplace policy (more on Work-Family legal issues on this blog next week- stay tuned!). At the very least, this visible instance of approved paternity leave can help, in a small way, to shift public attitude on this issue.

After all, the more visible examples we have of organizations supporting working dads, the better. Culture only changes slowly, over time, with the accumulation of hundreds of small decisions.

And change is desperately needed. According to Boston College’s Center for Work and Family’s study of US working dads:

  1. Almost none take formal paternity leave

  2. 75% of men take one week or less of accumulated time off (sick, personal, vacation days) after the birth of a child

  3. 16% are unable to take any days off after the birth of a child

Considering that dads’ time with children benefits everyone- kids, moms, dads, families, society- we need more support for working dads. Thanks Prince William and good luck with the new baby!

* and yes, I understand that William isn’t exactly a typical enlisted man or employee- he’s second in line to the throne, after all. But still, this is progress.

What do you think about paternity leave? The Royal Family? on the US being way behind the rest of the world? Let’s discuss in the comments section.

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PS- A quick aside on the Royal Family:

I never understood all the hoopla over the British Royal Family. I was a kid when Charles and Di got married, and I remember my mom and sister swooning as I wondered what all the fuss was about. While I appreciated the public good that Princess Diana did in her lifetime, I never understood why she was so deified by the public and so unrelentingly hounded by the press and paparazzi.

When William and Kate got married, the pattern seemed to repeat itself- the public went nuts and the media had a feeding frenzy. I simply wished the couple well, and hoped they could find some normalcy and privacy while living under a media microscope.

From my relatively uninformed perspective, the royal couple seems to have comported themselves very well- mixing in public spectacle (the wedding, the Olympics) while maintaining a mostly low, private profile. Good on them. I hope for their sake, as well as the baby’s, the same will be true once Royalbaby is born.

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