Paternity Leave in Construction: How Firms Can Support New Dads

Story by Gemma Beasley / February 2, 2024

When Mike’s daughter was born, he was anxious about balancing his construction foreman job with fatherhood. His company offered only 1 week of paid leave, and he was worried about spending so little time with his newborn before resuming long workdays.

Luckily for Mike, he was able to reach out to his employer with these concerns, and they agreed to temporarily adjust his schedule to part-time remote work. This flexibility was a lifeline, enabling Mike to bond with his daughter while keeping his job. Now back full-time, Mike feels immense loyalty and won’t forget the support he received as a new father.

When management fully endorses fathers taking leave – it sends a powerful message. A little encouragement goes a long way toward dismantling old stigmas. In a follow-up to my previous article on paid maternity leave in construction, I’ll now explore the critical issue of paternity leave.

Federal Policy Fails New Dads

While maternity leave is often at the forefront of family policy conversations, paternity leave is just as crucial for retaining construction talent and promoting gender equality in parenting. However, with outdated cultural norms still discouraging fathers in the industry from taking adequate time off, construction firms must take the lead and actively promote robust paternity leave benefits to employees.

Under the current Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible new fathers can take up to 12 weeks of job-protected but unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. But for most working families, going without income for three months causes enormous financial strain and stress. This makes the unpaid federal policy wholly inadequate.

Some progressive states have enacted paid family and medical leave programs to supplement the FMLA. But still there is no federal paid paternity leave policy in the US, which fails working fathers in construction and lags behind the generous paid parental leave offered in most other developed nations. For example, Canada has a national policy offering up to 35 weeks of partially paid parental leave, to be shared between both mothers and fathers as they choose.

Construction Firms Must Exceed Expectations

Given the lack of support at the federal level, forward-thinking and family-friendly builders should design paternity leave benefits that far exceed current federal standards in order to stay competitive in recruiting and retaining talented tradespeople.

Many construction companies now offer new dads several weeks of paid paternity leave when a child arrives, and firms should consider getting creative with even more flexible policies tailored to evolving family needs in those early months. For example, allowing fathers to break up the paid leave into smaller 1-2 week increments spread out over 6-12 months – giving dads time off not just right after birth but also during later phases of adjustment.

Offering temporary schedule flexibility when they return is also key, like gradually ramping up to full-time hours or implementing hybrid and remote work.

Some old-school firms choose to only grudgingly offer bare minimum leave to dads, balking at the perceived costs. But losing a well-trained worker altogether brings huge turnover expenses over time when needing to find and train replacement staff after he quits. In contrast, short-term leave with temp coverage is a minor manageable expense.

Cultural Change is Critical

Alongside implementing more robust paternity leave policies, the male-dominated construction industry must continue working to overhaul traditional cultures that actively discourage fathers and husbands from taking time off to care for kids and recovering partners.

Site supervisors and managers should help model this cultural shift by themselves utilizing earned paternity benefits when they have a new child. When leaders are seen to be taking their paternal leave without harming their career or being stigmatized for their absence – this sets the tone for the rest of the business.

Leadership should also vocally and regularly endorse paternity leave as essential for family health, early bonding, and overall well-being.

The bottom line: Working dads need more time

Stories like Mike’s show why generous paternity leave and schedule flexibility are so impactful for retaining construction talent. When managers encourage new fathers to take time with family without career penalties, it fosters immense loyalty. Employees like Mike will work harder than ever to repay companies who supported them when it mattered most. By reframing leave as an investment in workers, not a cost, forward-looking firms can gain a competitive edge.

For construction companies facing chronic recruitment challenges and talent shortages across the industry, offering generous paternity leave is a strategic advantage that attracts, retains, and motivates crucial skilled staff.

Are you keen to implement new policies for fathers on your team? Not sure where to start? I’ve consulted hundreds of firms – I know what works, and what’s not worth your time. Get in touch today and let’s make sure your parental policies and talent strategy line up!


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