1993 saw the U.S. Congress pass the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA); it allows American men and women to take off 12 weeks of unpaid time from their jobs for the birth or adoption of a child. This time off is referred to either as family leave or parental leave. When women take the leave, it is called maternity leave, and when men use their time, it is referred to as paternity leave.
To be eligible for parental leave under the FMLA, you must have worked for a federal, state, or local public agency or an organization with 50 or more employees within a seventy-five mile radius. Employees who want to take advantage of the act must have worked for their employers for a minimum of twelve months with at least 1,250 work hours. If you meet those requirements, then your employer must pay your benefits during your absence and allow you to return to work in the same position or a similar one after the leave period has expired.
Not only does the Family and Medical Leave Act come with its own laws, but there are some states which stand by their own family laws which offer many more advantages than those provided through the federal act. Additionally, there are also a lot of employers who offer their own type of family leave plans. Even with these benefits, a lot of men are still very hesitant to take the time off from work.
Several reasons could explain this reluctance. Of course, the most common reason that men choose not to take advantage of paternity leave is simply because they can’t afford to go unpaid for twelve weeks. A study performed by the National Partnership for Women & Families revealed that seventy-eight percent of the persons who can take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act do not because of the loss of income.
Having another child means more expenses, and a great number of families will suffer a huge amount of financial distress if the father takes unpaid leave, particularly when the mother is already taking time away from work. Many fathers are also concerned about their job status when they return from leave.
Even though it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee who is returning from leave, many men still fear the way they will be treated after they return to work. Some men are trapped by society’s beliefs. Even though women and men are both breadwinners today, many males still believe they must be the family’s main source of income. These are a few of the men who cannot take paternity leave because they cannot ignore old beliefs.
Why Taking a Leave Might Be A Good Idea for Both Parents
An infant’s initial months are the most important for bonding. Research conducted by the National Partnership for Women & Families affirms that babies who have the attention of both parents right after birth, for several weeks, have enhanced social and brain development. These infants are also healthier and happier overall.
If having children is in your future, then you should be taking the time to explore the leave options which are available to you from the Family and Medical Leave Act, the leave laws in your state, and from your employer.
If you can’t afford to take paternity leave, then you should consider other options. For instance, does your employer offer paid vacation or sick time you can use instead of the unpaid paternity leave? Spending time with your newborn and wife is priceless; this is something you do not want to miss.