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Volvo Cars reveals unspoken workplace stigma for American dads: Paternity leave

  • Father’s Day survey reveals unspoken workplace rules discourage paternity leave
  • Most American dads feel it’s a badge of honor to return to work quickly
  • More than half say paternity leave policies could cause them to second guess having a child
  • To fight the stigma, Volvo Cars opts all employees in to 24-weeks paid leave


MAHWAH, NJ (June 17, 2021): Unspoken workplace rules discourage fathers from taking paternity leave, according to a new survey by Volvo Car USA and The Harris Poll, with more than two-thirds of American dads surveyed admitting it is a badge of honor to take as little leave as possible.


As Father’s Day approaches, Volvo Cars sought to explore the perceptions of parental leave through the eyes of new and expecting fathers given the company’s recent introduction of its Family Bond program, which automatically gives all employees 24 weeks of paid parental leave.  


The Harris Poll study found workplace stigmas, cultural expectations, stress drivers and fears tied to navigating paternity leave caused many men to put work ahead of their families. Key highlights are included below.


Unspoken Rules: American Men Feel the Stigma of Paternity Leave

While new and expecting fathers are open to the idea of paternity leave, workplace traditions and societal pressures often drive them to forego the full time offered. Ninety percent of those surveyed reported being offered less than 12 weeks of paternity leave from their employer, but 63 percent of men planned to take less than half of that allotted time. Our survey results revealed:


  • 62% admit an unspoken rule that men at their job should not take full paternity leave
  • 59% claim that no one at their company takes full paternity leave time
  • 67% feel/felt pressure to return from paternity leave as soon as possible
  • 58% are afraid that taking six weeks of paternity leave will set their career back


In the U.S., Paternity Leave Benefits Drive Job Consideration and Family Planning

While dads aren’t currently taking advantage of paternity leave offerings, they still have a desire to build lasting bonds with their child and support their partner after birth. Parental leave benefits are also a critical factor when choosing an employer or even planning to have children. Through our survey we further learned:


  • 80% of men wish they had more time to bond with their child when they were born
  • 54% are concerned about adequately supporting their partner after birth
  • 57% admit that paternity leave policies could cause them to second guess having a child
  • 71% would consider switching jobs for one with a more competitive family leave offering
  • 83% strongly believe that being an involved parent makes them a better employee


Dads Support Longer Paternity Leave Paired with Culture Change

While an overwhelming majority of new and expecting fathers support a 24-week paid parental leave offering, it is equally as important that companies also institute cultural change that encourages parents to take leave without fear of career setbacks. Respondents to the survey touted several benefits to this approach:


  • 51% say it would allow them to enjoy bonding time with their partner and child
  • 48% say it would make them more likely to recommend the company to others
  • 47% attest it would improve their performance when they returned to work
  • 45% think it would reduce stress about career setbacks for taking paternity leave
  • 35% predict it would help them avoid burnout


As a human-centric organization, Volvo Cars decided to approach parental leave through a new lens. The Family Bond policy, introduced in April 2021, is designed to foster a culture that supports equal parenting for all genders, while providing precious time and space for both mothers and fathers to bond with a new child. The policy includes:


  • All employees are opted-in to 24 weeks of paid family leave at 80% of their base pay. Alternatively, employees can take 19 weeks at full pay.
  • Applies globally to the more than 40,000 Volvo Cars employees in all manufacturing plants and offices
  • Applies to all parents equally, regardless of gender or sexual orientation
  • Includes adoptive, foster care, surrogate, and non-birth parents in same-sex couples


Through an extensive pilot study, Volvo Cars recognized the need to pair The Family Bond offering with a larger organizational commitment to removing obstacles that limit the uptake of parental leave. These include potential impact on team, career opportunities and expectations of fathers in the workplace and at home. Breaking through these barriers is essential to making parental leave for both parents the new norm.


To do this, Volvo Cars has focused on communicating its parental leave policy more effectively by automatically opting-in expecting parents, regardless of gender, to the full 24 weeks. The policy language also avoids ambiguous language like “up to 24 weeks” that may discourage parents from taking their full leave time. Parental leave also encourages the building of diverse teams, which sparks creativity and innovation across the organization, and ultimately strengthens the business at large.


To learn more about the Volvo Family Bond offering, click here.



This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Volvo Cars from May 26 – June 3, 2021 among 501 U.S. men who are employed full-time and have either had a child in the last 5 years or are planning to have one in the next 5 years. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.


About Volvo Car USA
Volvo Car USA LLC, ( is a subsidiary of Volvo Car Group of Gothenburg, Sweden. VCUSA provides marketing, sales, parts, service, technology, and training support to Volvo automobile retailers in the United States. For more information, please refer to the VCUSA media website at:


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