Should Your Business Offer Paid Paternity Leave?

Andrew Buck October 6, 2021

Paternity leave is one of the biggest new trends in employee benefits.

Strict gender roles are not a thing anymore, in most parts of the world. Today, it’s normal for a new father to request leave to care for and bond with their newborn, to help with housework, and to support their partner’s career and help them get back to work quicker.  

But are you required to provide paternity leave to your employees? And how does it benefit your business if you offer paid parental leave to new dads in your team?

We’ll answer these questions and a lot more in this article. Read on. 

What is Paternity Leave?

Paternity leave is a type of parental or family leave that falls under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

It entitles eligible new dads to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth of a child. And their position in the company is guaranteed for them when they return. 

Parental leave extends to cover fathers in adoption or foster care scenarios. The FMLA also addresses similar family related matters, such as caring for an unwell family member.

Although paternity is covered under the FMLA, it is typically maternity leave that gets the most attention in the HR departments. 

Traditionally, men are less likely to take paternity leave if available, often due to the fear of how it will affect their careers. But the trend is growing among new dads.

It has been shown to help when it comes to creating a bond with their newborn and the positive impact it has on the entire family. 

And for businesses that recognize this trend and include paid paternity leave in their time-off policies, it could be a net positive as well, as we’ll discuss below. 

But first, let’s discuss what you’re required to provide by law.

Learn More: Paid Maternity Leave Laws Around the World

Does My Business Need to Provide Paternity Leave?

Depending on where your company and employees are based, you might need to provide paid parental leave, regardless of gender, as part of your time off policy. 

Let’s take a look at some of the laws in the United States, as well as around the world.

United States Paternity Leave Laws

Since paternity leave is covered under family leave, you may have to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if your company falls under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

This is a Federal Govt. law, which means it applies to companies in every state across the country. 

The Family and Medical Leave Act also covers adopted fathers – the specific wording in the act refers to “the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to bond with the newly placed child within one year of placement.”

To be eligible for paternity leave under FMLA, the following have to be true about your employee. 

If your employee or your company does not qualify for FMLA, your employees might still be eligible for paternity leave under various state laws.

Here we’ve listed some of the state laws regarding paternity leave in the U.S. at the time of writing, but they can change in the future. So, be sure to get in touch with your state’s labor department to learn more about leave laws specific to your business.

California

New dads get up to 6 weeks of partial pay (60-70%) for paternity leave, but their job isn’t guaranteed by the state. 

But if your California company falls under FMLA, then your employee is covered on both fronts. 

The paternity leave pay is funded through mandatory payroll deductions. In other words, you’re not responsible for paying the partial payment out of pocket, but it comes from the state. 

New Jersey

If your business employs more than 30 people in New Jersey, then your employees can get 80% of their salary during paternity leave, but up to a maximum of $860 for 12 weeks. 

Like California, the payment is funded through payroll deductions.

Washington DC

Washington DC has its own version of FMLA, known as DCFMLA. It allows for paternity leave up to 16 weeks with job protection, but only eight weeks are required to be paid.

New York

Starting in 2021, New York dads who have spent 26 weeks at a company full-time will receive 10 weeks of paternity leave with job protection. For part-time workers, they can get the same benefit if they’ve spent 175 working at the company. 

Employees get 67% of their average weekly pay during the leave, but it is capped at 67% of the statewide average weekly pay.

Rhode Island

New fathers get up to 13 weeks of unpaid paternity leave within a given two-year period. This leave not only applies to birth, but also if their child is placed in child care.

To be eligible, one must work in a business that employs more than 50 people, and the employee must have worked at least 30 hours per week for more than 12 months prior to requesting paternity leave. 

United Kingdom

Fathers can take time off when their partner is having a baby or adopting a child, and they might be entitled to the following. 

But one might not be entitled to both leave and pay under certain circumstances. Be sure to refer to the UK govt website for more details on how paternity leave works, eligibility, payments, and more.

Germany

German maternity leave is regulated by The Maternity Protection Act (MPA). It entitles a mother to 6 weeks of leave before birth and 8 weeks after.

In case of premature or multiple births, one gets 12 weeks of maternity leave.

In addition, the mother can take extended maternity leave for up to 24 months total, and get compensated between 300-1200 euros per month. 

This additional compensation benefit lasts for the initial 14 months out of the 24 months and is paid for by the government. 

Why are we talking about maternity leave? 

Because there is no specific law that governs paternity leave in Germany, but new dads can be entitled to similar benefits under parental leave.

France 

New fathers are entitled to up to 28 days of paternity leave in France, with a 7-day leave compulsory after a baby’s birth. 

3 out of the 28 days are paid by the employer, and the remaining 25 are paid by the French government. 

Australia 

Eligible new dads get up to 2 weeks of paid paternity leave in Australia, paid for by the government. 

New Zealand

New Zealand offers a tiered approach when it comes to paternity leave. 

Further Reading: all the leave types you can consider offering in your business – from paternity and maternity leave, to paid vacation days, to sabbaticals.

Difference Between Paternity and Maternity Leave

While both fall under the category of family leave or parental leave, there are a couple of key differences between paternity and maternity leaves.

For one, paternity leave is a newer concept.

Women are still perceived as primary care providers for their children, which means there’s much more attention that is focused on maternity leave. Both at the company policy level and when it comes to labor laws.

While it’s a rapidly growing topic of discussion, fathers are still much less likely to take full advantage of their full paid family leave entitlements, mostly due to the fear of how it would impact their career opportunities.

Another difference is that in many countries, paternity leave can only start after the birth of the child, whereas maternity leave can often begin during pregnancy. 

Should I Offer Paid Paternity Leave?

The question of whether you should offer paid leave for new fathers only comes up if your company or employees are based in a state or country that doesn’t already have legal requirements. 

For example, if you’re based in the USA outside of the states we listed above. In such cases, it comes down to your company policy to decide whether dads in your company get paternity leave (paid/unpaid).

There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests that allowing paternity leave can have a significantly positive impact on the dad (your employee), the family, and ultimately your business. 

Benefits for The Father

Spending time with their children after they’re born has been shown to have a positive effect on fathers, both as an individual, a parent, and as an employee. 

The vast majority of men report caring for their children as a “very meaningful” experience that leaves them feeling full of satisfaction and makes them feel more engaged. 

This experience also helps many fathers appreciate their employers more, which makes them more likely to stay with the same company for longer when they return to work. 

Benefits for the Family 

According to a Ball State University Study, there is an association between longer paternity leave and increased involvement of the father in a child’s life.

There’s evidence of significant benefits of a father’s presence in a child’s life, such as the following. 

Studies have also shown that longer paternity leave can mean fewer health complications for the mothers, fewer antibiotics use for the children, and improved postpartum mental health for the mothers.

Benefits for Your Business

Paternity leave can help you reduce turnover costs by retaining employees, and it can also increase employee loyalty and morale.

When surveyed, a majority of new parents answered that they would choose to change jobs if it came down to not being able to spend enough time with their children. 

Providing paid family leave for fathers demonstrates that you truly care about your employee’s (and their families) wellbeing, and they’re more likely to go above and beyond for you when they come back to work after their leave period.

89% of businesses that provide paternity leave reported that it had no negative effect on productivity, and 91% said the same when on performance/profitability.

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Final Thoughts on Paternity Leave

Although a relatively new concept, paternity leave is a trending topic in the workplace. And with an ever-increasing emphasis on work-life balance, the number of companies that offer paid leave for a new parent – mother or father – is set to grow over the coming years. 

Learn about the local labor laws to see if you’re required to offer paternity leave to your employees. And even if it is not a legal requirement, review all the reasons we mentioned above and consider whether a paternity leave makes sense for your business’s leave policy

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