When women are expecting a baby or adopting one, they can generally expect a few months of maternity leave to take care of the little one. But raising a child is not just the mother’s job, so what about the father? How much paternity leave do they get?
How much paternity leave fathers are entitled to depends on the state, country, and place of work. Some countries grant as little as one week, while others give fathers 30 weeks of paternity leave. Generous companies, like Netflix, give fathers as much as one year of paternity leave.
The rest of this article will discuss what paternity leave entails and how you can check how much you’re entitled to. I’ll also discuss how much pay you receive while on paternity leave and whether or not it’s the same as the FMLA. Finally, I’ll discuss if you can start your paternity leave before the birth as well as the pros and cons of paternity leave.
What Is Paternity Leave?
Fathers can receive paternity leave upon the birth of their child. So, what is paternity leave, and what does it entail?
Paternity leave is a period off work that is given to new fathers. It aims to allow the father to bond with the baby, help the mother, and get into a new parenting routine.
Paternity leave is a legal right in most countries, and the time off work must not jeopardize the father’s job. If you’re adopting a child or are part of a same-sex couple, you usually have the same paternity benefits as the mother would.
How Do I Check How Much Paternity I Can Get?
You can check how much paternity leave you can get by requesting your company’s parental leave policy from HR. Alternatively, you can visit a government website and search for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations in your state.
In the US, you are only entitled for paternity leave if the FMLA covers you. FMLA-covered employees include those for which the following criteria are true:
- The company has 50 or more employees.
- They have worked a minimum of 25 hours a week for the past year.
- Their place of work is within 75 miles (121 kilometers) of a company location with at least 50 employees.
If you don’t meet the above criteria, then you are not entitled to paternity leave. Most countries, states, and companies grant the non-birthing parent paternity leave even if it’s not required by the law, although this can vary greatly from company to company. It’s also worth checking if you will be paid during paternity leave because you might only receive 60% to 95% of your pay.
If your company’s paternity policy differs from your country or state regulations, the company policy will usually override the country or state one if it is more generous. For instance, your country may only grant new fathers one week of paid paternity leave, while your company may state that you can have four weeks off and still get paid.
However, suppose your company’s paternity policy is less generous than the country’s or state’s one. In that case, your company might be breaking local labor laws, and you may need to contact the U.S. Department of Labor to resolve it.
Below is a handy table illustrating how much paternity leave fathers receive in various states and countries. It also shows how much the father will be paid during paternity leave.
|Paternity Leave Type
|New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts
|12 to 18 weeks
|District of Columbia
As you can see from the above table, not all paternity leave is fully paid so you may need to save money for your child beforehand.
If your company has a generous paternity leave policy, you might get much more time off than the statutory requirements. Below is a table showing how some companies approach paternity leave:
|Paternity Leave Policy
|Four months of paid leave
|One year of paid leave
|Bank of America
|Four months of paid leave
|Three months of paid leave, plus a phase-back period
Is Paternity Leave the Same As the FMLA?
In the last section, I explained that you could check your country or state’s regulations on the FMLA (or Family and Medical Leave Act) to check your paternity leave eligibility. So, is paternity leave the same as the FMLA?
Paternity leave is not the same as the FMLA. Paternity leave is a component of FMLA. Paternity leave is granted to the non-birthing parent when a child is born, while the FMLA refers to any medical or family-related leave.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, US-based employees can take twelve weeks of unpaid leave as paternity leave. The FMLA allows employees to take three months of unpaid leave during a one-year period for:
- Caring for a sick family member.
- Recuperating from a serious health condition.
- Attending emergencies because of a close family member who is in active military service.
Employees may also receive 26 working weeks of leave per year to take care of a seriously injured or ill military worker, as long as they are the employee’s next of kin, parent, spouse, or sibling.
Can I Start Paternity Leave Before Birth?
You might have noticed that some mothers take maternity leave before the baby is born. As a father, can you do the same?
You can start paternity leave before the birth if you are covered by the FMLA, as it allows you to take paternity leave within a year of your child’s birth. If you’re not covered by the FMLA or live outside the US, you might only be allowed to take paternity leave after your child is born.
I’ll discuss these points in more detail below:
You Can if You’re Covered by the FMLA
If you are covered by the FMLA, the law states that you can take paternity leave within 12 months of adopting a child or the birth of your child.
Some new fathers start their paternity leave a few days before the due date so that they can support the birthing parent when they give birth. As with maternity leave, it’s best to arrange paternity leave well in advance with your employer so there is no confusion or disagreement on the terms.
Paternity Leave Often Only Starts After the Birth
In many countries, the non-birthing parent is not allowed to take paternity leave until the baby is born or before they adopt a child.
The United Kingdom, for example, requires employees to inform their employers about their intended paternity leave at least four months before the baby is born or one week before adopting a child. The paternity leave must also be within 56 days of the birth.
If you advise your employer in advance of your baby’s due date and agree that you’ll only take paternity leave when your partner goes into labor, they should not have a problem if you need to rush out on the day.
How Do I Apply for Paternity Leave?
If your partner is expecting a baby or you plan on adopting a child, how do you apply for paternity leave?
You apply for paternity leave by informing your HR department or manager of your intentions in advance. They will ask you to complete paperwork and might require evidence of the due date. After the birth, you may need to hand in a copy of your child’s birth or adoption certificate.
Each company has its own paternity leave policies, and it’s a good idea to read them as soon as you find out that you’re expecting a baby or adopting a child. Most paternity leave policies explain the steps you need to take to apply.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Paternity Leave?
Paternity leave is usually a happy and special time for the non-birthing parent. However, like everything in life, it has good and bad points.
The pros and cons of paternity leave include allowing the father to feel valued, bond with the baby, and support the birthing parent. It may, however, upset child-free employees and result in discrimination.
I will explain these points in more depth below:
Pros of Paternity Leave
Paternity leave is typically shorter than maternity leave. However, it does offer many benefits, and these are just a few of them:
Allows the Father To Bond With the Baby
The period immediately after the birth or adoption of a child is extremely important as it sets the tone for the parent’s relationship with the child.
Allowing the non-birthing parent to bond with the baby helps them to model a strong sense of security and helps the child to develop positive self-esteem.
Paternity leave allows the father to bond with the baby without having to leave for work for eight or more hours each day.
Makes the Father Feel Valued
The birthing parent is usually the primary caregiver and spends the most time with the new baby or adopted child. However, because paternity leave allows the non-birthing parent to spend a lot of time with the child, they are more likely to feel valued and needed by the child.
Helps the Birthing Parent Rest After Birth
Going through labor and giving birth is an incredibly tiring process for the birthing parent, and can often be worse if they had a c-section. Recovering from the birth can be challenging because the mother needs to check on the baby and feed them every few hours, resulting in little sleep during the recovery period.
Paternity leave allows the parents to share the caregiving duties and gives the birthing parent some much-needed rest. It can also allow the non-birthing parent to help out with household chores, such as cooking, cleaning, shopping, and more.
Cons of Paternity Leave
Traditionally, fathers were only given a few days of paternity leave, but thankfully this has now changed. Although paternity leave is generally viewed as a positive thing, there are a few drawbacks:
May Upset Child-Free Employees
Granting paternity leave to the non-birthing parent can upset child-free employees who might never take time off for family commitments.
If an employee has a demanding job and takes paternity leave, the employer might ask other staff members to cover for them. This could create animosity and a feeling of unfairness. Such employees might complain that the company’s paternity leave policy isn’t fair as it excludes those who don’t have children.
An excellent way to overcome this is for employers to insist on paternity leave applications well in advance to recruit and train a replacement or distribute the employee’s work more evenly.
Can Result In Discrimination
Most employers understand the need for parents to take paternity leave and will gladly grant it. However, many companies mistreat employees and discourage them from taking leave.
In such cases, even though they’re obliged by law to grant paternity leave, they may unfairly discriminate against the employee.
In 2021, the BBC published an article about why more men were not taking their permitted paternity leave. Some of the reasons included fear of:
- Not being promoted.
- Not receiving an increase or bonus.
- Being made redundant.
- Being resented by colleagues.
Thankfully, in most countries, it is against the law to discriminate against parents who take paternity leave. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commision (EEOC) protects US-based employees from various forms of discrimination, including paternity leave discrimination.
If you believe your employer has discriminated against you because you took paternity leave, you can file a charge with the EEOC.
How much paternity leave you can get depends on where you live and whether or not the FMLA covers you. Most non-birthing parents can get 12 weeks of paid paternity leave, and you will need to check with your HR department for more information.
Paternity leave is an excellent opportunity to bond with your child, support the birthing parent, and feel valued. However, it can sometimes upset child-free employees and result in discrimination. Thankfully, in most countries, it’s against the law to discriminate against those who take paternity leave.