Paternity Leave? An Overview of Paternal Leave Laws

Having a child is one of the most exciting and joyful events that you will ever go through. For mothers, having a child sometimes comes with maternity leave from work so they can bond with and care for the new baby as well as recover from giving birth. Fathers, however, aren’t afforded the same options, but that is slowly changing.

If your wife is pregnant, or you are planning on adopting a child, it is important to learn about your paternal leave rights and how to exercise them. The first thing you will want to do is speak with your employer to see if they offer any specific benefits. A growing number of companies are offering men anywhere from a few days to several weeks of time away from their job to bond with the new child and help their wife with the adjustment. Most employers only offer what is legally required of them based on the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

What Rights Does the FMLA Provide?
The FMLA prilovides that employees must be given 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. At the end of this period, your employer must alloe you to return to your existing job or a similar job at the same salary, working conditions, seniority, and benefits. While not strictly required, many employers will allow you to use vacation time and sick time along with FMLA so at least a portion of your leave is paid.

In addition to the time away from work, your employer has to continue to keep you on their health insurance plan. Your portion of the premiums must still be paid, however, even though you are on unpaid leave. Many employers will cover that amount with the requirement that you pay it back once you have returned to work. Discussing your company’s specific policy on this ahead of time is critical to avoiding a lapse in coverage at a time when health insurance is needed most.

Who Qualifies for FMLA Leave?
All federal, state, and local government employees will qualify, as will all public and private schools. In addition, any employer with 50 or more employees who have worked 20+ workweeks in the prior 12 months will also qualify.

If your employer is required to provide these benefits, you still need to meet some specific requirements. First, you must have been working for the company for at least 12 months, and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the previous year. If you and your spouse both work for the same company, you are only entitled to a total of 12 weeks of leave between the two of you.

Demanding Your Rights
If your employer has denied your request for leave or they are threatening your career, it is important to stand up for your rights. Contact attorney Carla D. Aikens to discuss your options, and prepare to work though this important issue.