LINCOLN, Neb.-- By default, most moms have to take time off work when they have a baby- but what about dads taking paternity leave? Just last week the White House held its first ever Summit on Working Dads. The conversation started when New York Mets third-baseman Daniel Murphy missed Opening Day to be there for the birth of his first child. He faced major backlash for that choice.
Boston College has been doing research on, what they call, "The New Dad" since 2011. Links to those full studies are attached to this story.
The study shows that in 2011, less than 85 percent of new fathers took some time off after their children were born. 61 percent took just one week or less. In 2014, more than 90 percent take time off and almost 40 percent take two weeks off. For a mom, the average time off is 10.3 weeks.
The time taken off for parents is protected by federal and state law. You can find information about Nebraska's Family and Medical Leave Act, as well as the federal regulations from the Department of Labor in the sidebar of this story.
Lincoln firm, Talent Plus has won awards for being a great place to work. And a few years ago they did some major overhauling of their leave policy.
"We told people that there were some complications, everyone at Talent Plus was just like 'yeah, take whatever time you need'. There was really no question, no form to fill out, no permission to get," said Talent Plus associate Kyle Bruss.
Bruss has two kids, Jaxon,3, and Norah,1. He had to take extra time off when both of them were born due to complications.
"We expect a lot of our associates and we don't even count how many hours they're working for us. So why are we making them count how many hours they're not working for us?," asks Bill Kerrey, the Chief Information Officer at Talent Plus.
It's unconventional. But for Talent Plus, eliminating limits on paid time off has made a big difference.
"We're getting what we think are the right results. People are more engaged, they're happier with the policy. And our goal all along had been to allow them to take more time off from work if they needed it and they are," said Kerrey.
That makes it easier to combine work and family life for someone like Bruss.
"Work life balance is, for me, sort of a mythological thing. Saying that 'how did I feel about not having to do work?' well I'm still thinking about it because it's part of my life, it's part of who I am, and then just finding the right opportunity to check in," he said. He added it's nice to know if he has to focus on his family, he can.
Kerrey said Bruss isn't alone and change is coming. Talent Plus works with companies in the hiring process. Kerrey said people going through the hiring process with companies are increasingly interested in firms that allow flexibility and the time to handle family matters.
"I do think it's happening, but I think it's slow. The problem is that organizations policies reflect their culture and their values and once you have these kind of policies in place it's difficult to change them. For one thing, it's change. Organization like status quo. It's safe, it feels safe. Going to something like the policy we have feels risky," he said.
And for now, it's a risk many organizations have avoided taking. In the Boston College research from 2014, it shows 60 percent of the organizations they surveyed offer paternity leave, with an average of two weeks given. More than 80 percent said they have no plans to change their policy.