Swedish Dads Get 3 Months of Paternity Leave

Sweden extends its mandatory paid paternity leave by an extra month, meaning Swedish dads get 3 months off to bond with baby. Meanwhile, in the U.S. we got nothing.

Swedish Dads Get 3 Months Paternity Leave amyjosmile/Shutterstock

When American babies are born, fathers are usually considered lucky if they can take a couple of weeks off. (Along with moms, the only parental leave America offers dads is 12 weeks unpaid under The Family and Medical Leave Act.) But in Sweden, which already has one of the best parental leave policies in the world, pops will now be getting three months of paid (yes, paid) paternity leave.

The Swedish government's new proposal is an extension of the existing law that allows for 16 months of time off for new parents, paid at 80 percent of their salaries (up to a cap total amount). Previously, dads were required to use or lose at least two of those months; starting in 2016, they will be required to use three. Moms must take three as well, with the remaining 10 months to be split however parents want.

Related: Why New Dads Can and Should take FMLA Leave

Is it fair to require dads to use the leave or lose it, instead of letting moms take it? Even in Sweden, men tend to make more than women, so forcing dads to be the ones to stay home could present a financial hardship. But the Swedish government designed the law this way to promote a better distribution of family responsibility, stronger bonding of fathers with their children, better work/life balance for both sexes and better gender equality. The third month "is something we've really looked forward to," Sweden's social security minister Annika Strandhäll told Radio Sweden. "We know that this is a key issue towards attaining greater [gender] equality."

In contrast with Sweden, the U.S. offers no paid parental leave for dads (or moms for that matter). But before you think about moving to Stockholm, have your partner talk to his human resources department about taking at least some of the unpaid FMLA time off that he is legally entitled to—which is the same amount as you. The benefits of daddy bonding time extend not just to your new baby, but to the whole family. And although there is still cultural resistance to fathers taking paternity leave, the more dads who do it, the more it will be accepted. And that, in turn, could lead to more companies, and the government, offering paid time for both new parents.

Related: Tips for Stay-at-Home Dads