My Best Employee Wants Paternity Leave…Do I Have to Allow It?


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Paternity leave? You can’t be serious! But many men are serious about it these days. Some see it as a way to bond with the new baby. In other homes, the dad needs to be the baby’s primary caregiver while the mother recuperates from a difficult delivery, or returns to work herself. Whatever the reason, why is this your problem and what is required of you?

Your legal obligation depends on certain details. According to Nolo.com — an agency dedicated to providing legal answers to consumers and businesses — here’s what you need to consider:

How big is your company?

Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), larger employers must allow up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave to eligible employees, during any 12-month period. The U.S. Labor Department defines “larger employer” as:

A company which employs 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar work weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.

Parental leave must occur during the first year of the child’s arrival (by birth, adoption, or foster placement), unless it is for the care of a seriously ill child.

Which state are you in?

In California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, parental leave must be paid leave. Washington state has a similar law pending, and many other states are considering such requirements.

For any business, if you allow parental leave for mothers, you must also allow it for fathers (upon request), or risk a sex discrimination lawsuit. If you employ both parents, you can have them split the leave time, or let them choose which of them will take the leave.

Assuming you are not required to provide parental leave, here are some points to consider if employees request leave:

The Downside

Obviously you’ll have to fill the manpower gap, either with your existing workforce — which probably means paying overtime – or find and train a temporary replacement. If you’re in a paid-leave state, you’ll be looking at a great increase in payroll costs.

For the workers, both men and women have found that taking parental leave often results in a long-term negative impact on their careers, in terms of pay and promotions.

The Upside

Allowing paternity leave is a family-friendly policy, which shows employees they are valued. Many employers view it as a way to keep their best workers onboard, as well as to attract new, quality employees.

Paternity leave helps employees balance the demands of home and work, which often translates to higher job productivity.

Studies suggest that when fathers are involved early on, their kids tend to be healthier and the home more stable. Greater stability generally makes for a better employee.

Is paternity leave the next trend? Actually, the Society of Human Resource Management says it’s on the decline in America. Overall, employers don’t see it as beneficial to their companies.

If providing leave is optional for you, your decision may come down to how hard it is for you to find and keep quality employees.

Teresa Ambord

Posted In: Management

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