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Ditching Dad

Nov
7
2006

Hey, good news! There’s been a blow for gender equality in Spain: A man’s gotten shafted for trying to take paternity leave.

He was fired from his administrative job just before he was going to take 10 weeks of paternity leave for his month-old baby. The business where he had worked for six years claimed he was fired for poor performance. But this doesn’t seem to be a case of a company cracking down on the sleep deprived at work – and if that were a trend, would anyone be left with a job?

No. Instead, the former employee is suing his company because, according to this article (in Spanish), he says was considered a good employee until he asked for paternity leave. The 38-year-old said that he thought his former company was afraid giving him paternity leave would set a bad precedent.

Now, Europe can be touted by advocates of improving family policies as having a better system of laws relating to work and families in place compared with the U.S.; it varies by country but several have more extensive maternity and paternity leave, more pay and job guarantees, day care subsidies or other goodies that would have American parents drooling more than their babies.

But there are hang-ups in the ways laws get translated into practice. If he’s afraid of getting fired, a man’s not going to take paternity leave. Sure you can sue, but meanwhile you’re unemployed with a new baby.

And if there is that pressure for men not to take full benefits, it’s a reflection of similar distortions women face, in Spain and other European countries. Women can take maternity leave, and go back to a comparable job, but in Spain an employer might define “comparable” to be one you hate in an inconvenient location. That’s if it isn’t hesitant to begin with about hiring, say, married women in a certain age bracket.

So it’s unfortunate for this father, but it’s good to focus attention on both men taking parent leave, and on the problems they face. If both men and women might take leave to care for babies, companies surely can’t refuse to hire anyone but pre-pubescent boys and girls or post-menopausal women who are also beyond an age when they might not be allowed to adopt.

And if men and women demonstrate the conflicts with work and taking care of kids, then the problem could get redefined. It won’t be another thing moms moan about. Because you know how much attention complaining moms get. We still haven’t perfected pulling a guilt trip on politicians. (So, what’s with this, you only call when there’s an election? Would it kill you to check in more often? I’m not even talking a card on Mother’s Day.)

It’s not such a tough thing for men and women, parents and non- , to understand the needs of parents. Empathy from men for long lines at women’s bathrooms, though – that one’s a little tougher.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 10:13 AM | Permalink

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