Paternity leave

Authored by hrsimple
June 12th, 2018

What is paternity leave?

Sometimes referred to as “family leave” or “parental leave”, paternity leave is an excused absence from work to care for and bond with a new child - whether by birth, adoption, or foster. This leave can vary in duration and may be paid or unpaid.

Are employers required to offer paternity leave?

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) employees of companies with a staff of 50 or larger are guaranteed twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth. This leave is job-protected leave meaning the employee must return to the same (or comparable) position and same wages upon completing leave. The FMLA also requires group health benefits to be maintained during the leave.

Does paternity leave need to be paid?

The FMLA does not provide for any pay during leave, and there are currently no federal paid paternity leave requirements in the United States - making it the only industrialized nation in the world that does not require paid time off for new parents.

However, 25 states have amended the FMLA further to provide for longer leave or lowering the minimum employer size to below 50. Four of these states - California, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island - require some form of paid family and medical leave. Additionally, individual cities (New York, Portland, Austin, Pittsburgh, San Francisco) are beginning to offer paid leave.

What notice must employees give for paternity leave?

Under the FMLA, leave requests must be given at least 30 days advanced notice.

Do companies offer other forms of paternity leave?

A 2015 Society for Human Resource Management survey found that less than 20% of employers offer paid paternity leave. With paid maternity leave still in a state of flux in the United States, paid paternity leave is a bit of wild card - as a result most fathers end up taking a paternity leave that is unpaid or a combination of cobbled-together vacation and sick leave.

Should our company have a paid paternity leave policy?

As with most things in the world of employment law, it is advisable to have a clear paternity leave policy and enforce it evenly. With many employees bringing claims under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers should consider adding paternity leave policies equal to or similar to maternity leave policies to avoid potential litigation.

Related posts

No FMLA for pet's death

This blog was written by Fiona Ong at Shawe Rosenthal, our author of the Maryland Human Resources Manual. You can find the original blog post here and their Labor & Employment Report newsletter (which is excellent) here.   In a previous post about pet bereavement leave, I noted that t... read more

FMLA definitions

This blog is an excerpt from our book An Employer's Guide to FMLA and ADA, authored by Nancy Van der Veer Holt at Ford Harrison LLP. For more state specific leave information, go to the Products tab above and subscribe to the Human Resources Manual for your state. FMLA coverage for employers ... read more

FMLA - "leave" as in "leave the employee alone"

FMLA contains "leave", as in "the employee isn't at work" but also as in "leave the employee alone or else". See what the boundaries are to avoid the "or else" from one of our authors @Ogletree Deakins. read more

Paid family leave: a growing trend

Legally mandated family leave policies have a relatively short history in the United States, and a requirement that the leave be paid is even shorter. In 1993, Congress enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) after finding that employees were having to choose between working and taking ca... read more