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Same-Sex Male Couples Across the Globe Receive Less Paid Parental Leave

When it comes to paid parental leave, same-sex male couples might be getting overlooked.


According to a study published in Cambridge University’s Journal of Social Policy, in the 33 countries with national paid parental leave (the United States is not among them), researchers found same-sex female couples received equal amounts of paid leave to different-sex couples in 19 countries, while same-sex male couples got equal amounts of leave in just four.

Researchers at the WORLD Policy Analysis Center looked at the countries’ labor, social security and parental leave legislation, studying government websites and other trusted sources to confirm the way those laws were applied and regulated.

"Many of the differences we found may be the indirect consequences of gender-restrictive language that assumes women are the primary caregivers and that every family has one mother and one father,” said Elizabeth Wong, the lead researcher of the study. “These assumptions often undervalue the importance of fathers’ involvement. When they do, same-sex male couples and male partners of mothers are the most disadvantaged.”

Wong said the research team didn't find any legislation that explicitly prohibits same-sex couples from receiving paid parental leave. However, “the way policies are structured or worded can nevertheless stop them from claiming benefits.” Wong added that “policymakers can explicitly guarantee inclusion and equality for same-sex couples by removing gender-restrictive language and providing equal paid leave opportunities for fathers and partners as provided to mothers.”   

To determine the duration of paid leave available to people in different relationships, the study looked at “key indicators” covering the length of maternity, paternity and shared parental leave set out in government policies and at whether those policies were worded in ways that included or excluded same-sex couples.

The duration of paid leave available varied greatly, with different-sex couples receiving between 13 and 184 weeks of paid leave. In comparison, same-sex female couples were entitled to between 12 and 164 weeks, while the duration available to same-sex male couples ranged from nothing at all to 156 weeks.

When it came to paid leave for adoptive parents, three of the countries provided no paid adoption leave, while nine countries banned adoption by same-sex couples. Of the remaining 22 countries, 19 provided the same amount of paid adoption leave for parents, regardless of whether they were in a same- or different-sex partnership.

Of the countries offering paid parental leave for either birth or adoption, only four guaranteed equal leave for all parents regardless of their gender or partnership status.

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