What is the future of paid paternity leave in Arkansas?

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NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, Ark. (KNWA) — A national survey shows just 13 percent of the nation’s private workforce offers paid family leave.

Large companies like Walmart offer more generous benefits.

But for some small businesses, it’s still a different story. 

Without the safety net provided by paid parental leave, many people are left having to choose between a steady paycheck and time to bond with their baby.

Is the workplace out of touch with the needs of working families?

KNWA sat down with one local father who says his paternity leave was a real game-changer.

Life for Fayetteville father Trenton Moss…let’s just say his hands are full.

“I do have a job that pays for me, but I think my real job is here at home being a father and a dad and a husband,” Moss said.

His daughter Mason is two years old, and his son Davis is four months.

“Really soon he’s going to be crawling and driving before too long,” he adds.

When Moss’ company, Saatchi and Saatchi X, offered him four weeks of paid leave after his son’s birth, he jumped at the opportunity.

“I actually took off an additional four weeks that I had built up over time from my work, so I took a total of two months off,” Moss said.

His employer is following the lead of large companies rolling out generous paid leave benefits.

Walmart now offers ten paid weeks for birth moms and six weeks for other new parents, regardless of whether the employee is hourly or salaried.

Starbucks recently added six weeks of paid parental leave for hourly employees who become new dads. 

Previously, it only offered leave to new moms and adoptive or foster parents.

Steve Clark is the President and CEO of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. He’s owned several small businesses throughout the years.

“For small businesses as much as they would love to be as generous as they can, and most are, they just can’t,” Clark said.

He says paid family leave just isn’t feasible when you have only a handful of employees.

“Finding temporary help was very difficult to do, to get someone to walk in for 30 days or 60 days or 90 days. For most businesses as much as they would like to, they just can’t. They can’t afford to have their business — it has to be continually operating and it can’t be interrupted or not if that employee is not there.”

Clark offers 12 weeks of unpaid leave to his employees, but adds the option of working from home.

He adds, “you try to find ways to make accommodations to say, I value you.”

Research shows that when fathers take longer paternity leaves, they’re more involved in child care-taking activities down the road.

Parkhill OBYGN Dr. Robert Hix explains, “New mothers will often try to take on everything and do everything, and they’re a little reluctant even to ask for help — especially first-time moms. But they are more likely to ask for help and receive help if dads around.”

Moss admits he doesn’t know many other fathers who were given the same opportunity to take time off.

“I supported my wife in helping around the house while she was laid up in bed a couple of days with Davis. I was here having some one-on-one time with my daughter,” Moss said.

But he says his paternity leave proved to be invaluable.

“He gets to know who daddy is. He gets to hear his voice. You get that physical interaction just holding him and recognizing the voice. I think our main role and job here is to lead, provide and protect your family. With the paternity leave I was allowed to do that,” Moss said.

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Aaron Nolan is a morning show co-host in Little Rock, Arkansas with Nexstar Media Group's KARK-TV. He has a passion for social media and makes it an important part of his daily routine. Click here to read Aaron's full bio.

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