Paternity Leave Workplace Basics

Paternity leave, leave taken by a father when a baby is born or a child is adopted, is rarely ever a paid form of leave. Though, in some circumstances, more companies are offering new dads paid time, separate from regular vacation time, that may range from a couple of days to a few weeks. Currently, the states of California, Washington and New Jersey have instituted paternity leave bills.

What Leave Do You Get?

If your employer does not offer any sort of paternity leave options, under the Family Medical Leave Act you are able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave before or after the birth or adoption of a child. Also, the 12 months don’t all have to be taken at once but generally just within the year after the arrival of the child. Upon returning to your job, your employer is to allow you to return to your previous role or a similar one with the same same salary, seniority, benefits, and working conditions.

To qualify for FMLA you must work for the federal, state or local government, or a company that has at least 50 employees who work within 75 miles of the company’s main location. As an employee, FMLA also requires that you’ve worked for your employer for at least 12 months and for at least 25 hours a week.


Your employer could deny this leave if you are in the to 10% of earners in your organization and your absence could have a substantial economic effect on the company. Also, if your and your spouse or partner work for the same company, you are only allowed a collective 12 weeks and not 12 weeks each.

Beyond FMLA and paternity leave, depending on state regulations and company policy, you may be entitled to other time off or types of leave. The best approach to take is to talk to your human resources department. They will be able to advise you on what sort of leave may be available to you.

Benefits While You’re Away           

As part of FMLA, while you are away, your employer must maintain your health insurance benefits. As you will not be working and the leave is unpaid, the company may require that you reimburse them for the portion that would generally come out of your paycheck

While the time spent away may not be counted toward seniority or the the accrual of benefits, when you return, FMLA requires the company reinstate you with the same standing you had before leaving. While away you, also will not be able to contribute to your 401(k) or any flexible spending accounts.

Requesting Leave

When it comes time to actually request your leave, it is important to be prepared ahead of time. Federal guidelines stipulate that leave be requested at least 30 days before you intend to take it, though it may be best to discuss it with your employer as soon as you know you are going to need to take it. The more prepared you are when requesting the leave and the more time your employer has to work with you, the more likely the process will be to go smoothly.

What types of paternity leave policies do you have in your workplace, if any? 

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.


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