Chattanooga dad changing stigma about paternity leave

WTVC

Only 15% of workers have the opportunity to take paid leave from work after having a new child, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That number is even smaller, at 9%, for paternity leave for fathers.

Federal law under FMLA requires companies give parents time off after the birth of a new baby. But there’s no rule saying it has to be paid.

Companies like Unum in Chattanooga are seeing the benefits of offering more paid leave for parents such as Ryan Ewalt.

With Father’s Day just around the corner, the Ewalt family has some celebrating to do. Ryan and Heather are as happy as they come with Ella, Annie and William. There’s a lot to balance with a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old and a 9-month-old.

But Ewalt says they found their foundation when he took a full six week paternity leave for their third child, William. Ewalt is an assistant VP for the service department at Unum in Chattanooga.

“I could spend more time just making memories with all of them that I didn’t have with the first two,” said Ewalt.

Research shows 37% of new dads feel a stigma at work with taking time off. 80% of them experience it firsthand.

“It was a different element I had to think through and I think other men are having to think through for the first time,” said Ewalt.

Ryan and Heather hope others will follow their lead to set a new tone about paternity leave.

“Anything would help because I saw how it changed our family for the better and it was such a sweet time,” said Heather.

They want to give dads the recognition and opportunities they deserve.

According to Pew Research, one in three people say expanding access for paid family leave should be a top priority in Congress. It ranked low compared to other top priorities such as fixing drug epidemic and road infrastructure.

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