Gay fathers get less paid parental leave than other couples

Study finds that on average, same-sex male couples had five fewer months of paid leave than different-sex couples.

    Gender stereotypes of women as primary caregivers explain much of the gap in parental leave periods, says the lead author of the study [File: Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters]
    Gender stereotypes of women as primary caregivers explain much of the gap in parental leave periods, says the lead author of the study [File: Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters]

    Gay men around the world receive less paid parental leave than lesbian or heterosexual couples, researchers said on Thursday, noting that many gay men are left struggling to pay household bills if they opt to spend more time at home with their children.

    Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) examined paternity laws in 33 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

    Their findings on workers' rights, first published in the Journal of Social Policy, found same-sex male couples received the same number of weeks off as different-sex couples in just 12 percent of countries reviewed.

    Lesbian couples received equitable time off in just under 60 percent of the countries studied, researchers found, after examining legislation gathered by the International Labour Organization in 2016. Some countries have since updated leave policies affecting LGBT parents.

    "A lot of the differences in leave stem from gender stereotypes where women are the primary caregivers," Elizabeth Wong, the lead author of the study, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    "That not only affects heterosexual couples, it greatly disadvantages same-sex male couples," she said.

    'To avoid discrimination'

    Laws in most countries did not prohibit same-sex couples from obtaining paid leave, but policies only referenced the needs of heterosexual couples and did not acknowledge same-sex couples.

    As of 2019, same-sex marriage was legal in fewer than 30 countries, and same-sex relations remain illegal in about 70 countries.

    The study did not address transgender or non-binary couples.

    The rise of far-right political parties around the world has raised concern around LGBT rights, and the fight for parenthood or adoption rights is a legislative battle in many countries.

    On average, same-sex male couples had five fewer months of paid leave than different-sex couples, while same-sex females received three fewer months than heterosexual couples, researchers said.

    Australia, New Zealand, Iceland and Sweden were the only countries to offer the same paid leave to all couples, including gay men, with leave periods ranging from 18 to 70 weeks.

    While companies in Switzerland often offer parental leave to men, only a minority of people benefitted, said Jody Heymann, a director at WORLD Policy Analysis Center.

    "There's little doubt that if you want to avoid discrimination, it's far better for paid leave to be done through social insurance," said Heymann of government-funded public health programmes.

    A 2018 report from the WORLD Policy Analysis Center found that OECD countries that offered six months of paid parental leave saw increased numbers of workers - and no change to unemployment or economic growth.

    Expanding paid leave can also lead to reduced government spending on public assistance, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research in the United States.

    Adoption leave for same-sex couples ranged from zero to 104 weeks, while different-sex couples could expect seven to 178 weeks, and male couples continued to see a starker difference in leave than female couples.

    "Many of these laws have gender unequal assumptions about who is going to provide care and who is going to provide work ... we have to undo them," said Heymann.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency