Most people are familiar with the concept of maternity leave, the period of time that a mother is allowed to take from work after she gives birth.
There are other kinds of leave that allow family members to bond as a family with a new child (or multiple children). This type of leave is known as family leave. Family leave can include time off for parents who are welcoming a child or children through adoption or surrogacy.
Another form of family leave is paternity leave, where a father or partner is entitled to take time off from work to bond with a new addition to the family and assist in caregiving for the new addition.
While the concept of family leave sounds great to many, not all employers offer paternity leave. And of the ones that do, not all of them offer paid time off for their employees during this time.
That means that a parent who takes paternity leave may have to take the time off without pay. Many people can’t afford two weeks of unpaid time.
If you are considering taking paternity leave, there are benefits and drawbacks to consider.
What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks to Paternity Leave?
Benefits to taking paternity leave include, of course, the opportunity to take time to spend exclusively with your new child or children without having to worry about leaving for work.
Proponents of paternity leave argue this allows for more efficient bonding between a parent and child.
Paternity leave also allows for a partner to assist in childcare responsibilities. Advocates for paternity leave claim this helps promote working women. Statistics show this group not only works the same or more hours as men but often fulfill many more hours of childcare responsibilities at home after work.
One of the drawbacks to paternity leave is that not all paternity leave is paid. The time spent away from work, while perhaps great for the family, can be a hardship financially.
Parents may be able to use sick or vacation time instead of paternity leave, if their workplace offers those benefits. However, the reason for using that leave must usually be approved.
What Is the Family Medical Leave Act?
Like many areas of law, paternity leave is generally covered by state law. Each state, therefore, has different policies.
The exception is the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This statute guarantees employees who work for businesses that meet certain qualifications up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave.
Essentially, FMLA says that an employee (who qualifies for FMLA) may not be terminated for taking family leave. An employee on leave must be able to return to their usual job or one that is similar to what they were doing prior to taking leave. But, employers are not required to pay the employee during the time the employee takes family leave.
Although not required to pay salaries or wages during family leave, employers are, however, required to maintain healthcare coverage for employees on family leave.
The statute also forbids discrimination against an employee who has elected to take family leave. Oftentimes employees may find they have been passed over for a promotion while on leave with a new baby.
FMLA seeks to prevent that kind of employment discrimination against new parents.
Who is covered under FMLA?
FMLA covers private employers who have 50 or more employees within 75 miles, state or federal governments, or public schools.
The employee taking leave must have worked for the qualifying employer for twelve months prior to taking leave, totaling a minimum or 1,250 hours.
Many states have much more inclusive family leave policies, which not only requires preservation of health insurance but also requires paid leave.
It’s important to note that while some states entitle employees to receive compensation during paid family leave, the pay may not be equal to the employee’s usual salary or wages.
Additionally, the pay may not come from the employer but rather from the state itself.
Should I Hire a Lawyer If I Am Denied Paternity Leave?
An employer who is subject to FMLA (or state family leave laws) and denies a parent the opportunity to take paternity leave may be in violation of FMLA in addition to violating any applicable state statutes.
Additionally, there may be other discriminatory practices for which the employer may be liable if they have denied an eligible employee paternity leave.
It is important to provide proper notice, usually in writing, to an employer requesting paternity leave.
However, if that request is denied, contact an experienced employment law attorney to discuss your case.
Welcoming a new child or children to the family should be a celebratory occasion. If you believe you are entitled to leave and have been falsely denied that right, don’t delay in consulting with an attorney who can help secure your rights so you can focus your attention on your family.