You’d have to live under a rock to miss the news that Duchess Kate Middleton went into labor on Monday morning. As the world keeps its eyes on the British royal couple, waiting with bated breath for the arrival of the third-in-line to the throne, Prince William can look forward to a brief respite once the newest heir arrives. Like all fathers in the United Kingdom, he will receive paid paternity leave when his child is born, the Huffington Post recently reported. It comes as no surprise that the Prince is taking a paternity leave since it has been widely speculated that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will share parenting duties much more equally than royal couples of the past.
He is luckier than some British employees. Prince William, who works as a Royal Air Force helicopter rescue pilot, will receive two weeks, more than the baseline mandated amount of compensation during his leave given that he is a military employee.
In general, the U.K. guarantees a weekly sum of £136.78 (equivalent to $209.78) or 90 percent of a father’s average weekly earnings – whichever is lower – for the duration of leave. Compared to the U.K.’s paternity leave system, which took effect in 2003, the U.S. does not yet guarantee paid paternal leave. But while the U.S. doesn’t have a paid leave policy, it is the only nation to allow equal leave for both moms and dads.
Both countries can learn lessons from the leave policies of other nations. In Finland, for instance, parental leave policy is far more generous and effective than it is in the U.S., according to a recent article in The Atlantic. The Finnish system provides four months of paid maternity leave, followed by an optional six-month paid leave that can be shared by both parents. Perhaps even more effective than this policy is that of Sweden, which carves out a period of non-transferrable leave for mothers and for fathers. This system incentivizes both parents to take advantage of leave and return to the workforce somewhat refreshed.
Studies show that that providing parental leave of any sort increases workforce retention, boosts worker morale, and is generally good for companies’ bottom line. While the U.S. falls behind most of the developed world in failing to guarantee paid time off for a new child, it can catch up by implementing a standardized system, such as the Center for American Progress’s “Social Security Cares” plan, that guarantees all employees access to paid, gender-neutral family and medical leave. Such changes would acknowledge the paradigm shift that has occurred for caregivers – male and female alike – who seek opportunities to engage in the paid labor force.
Sonalee Rau is an economic policy intern with the Center for American Progress Action Fund.