Paternity Leave: What about the dads?

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, rocked the paternity leave landscape earlier this week by announcing a new company policy that would allow fathers a full year of paid time off. While this new policy applies to only a certain level of employees at the UK-based company, it’s still pretty impressive…and super generous. Good work, Sir!

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Sir Richard Branson. Image courtesy of CrunchBase

If you’re a soon-to-be new dad, don’t worry, you won’t need to relocate to the UK to get some sort of paternity leave benefit. So, what are the benefits for dads in California?

FMLA/CFRA Leave for Eligible Dads 

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and California Family Rights Act (CFRA), dads are eligible to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid family leave after the birth or adoption of a child. Unlike maternity leave, FMLA and CFRA runs totally concurrently.

Paternity leave for FMLA/CFRA eligible dads . Timeline courtesy of Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center.

Paternity leave for FMLA/CFRA eligible dads . Timeline courtesy of Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center.

California happens to be one of three states (Washington and New Jersey being the others) that provides some pay for paternity leave through Paid Family Leave (PFL). As long as you’re eligible (pay into the state disability fund), you’ll be paid for 6 out of the 12 weeks at around 55% of your wages (up to a cap). California also hooks up dads through a labor law known as the Kin Care. Under this law, employers who provide sick leave for their employees must allow dads or spouses to use up half of their accrued sick leave in any calendar year to care for their partners. Using Kin Care doesn’t extend your time off, but it will provide an extra layer of compensation during that time.

You don’t have to use the entire 12-week FMLA/CFRA leave all at once. As long as your employer is cool with it, you can spread it out by taking it in chunks or reducing your weekly/daily work schedule. Only requirement is that you use it during the first year after your child is born or placed with you. Also, there won’t be a disruption in health benefits during the 12 weeks of paternity leave under FMLA/CFRA.

Couple of exceptions to mention

An employer can deny FMLA/CFRA leave if you are one of the highest 10% of earners at the company and can show that your absence would cause substantial economic harm to the organization. This exception actually applies to both men and women employees.

Another exception is if baby daddy and baby mamma work at the same company. Your work place may have sparked the romance, but you’ll only be eligible for a combined 12 weeks of leave between the two of you. [Mental note: don’t get involved with coworkers. I kid. I kid.]

Non FMLA/CFRA eligible dads

If you work for a small company or just part time, you’re likely not eligible for the 12 weeks of FMLA/CFRA leave. It’s definitely worth talking to your employer to see what sort of benefit or arrangement you can mutually agree to. California resident papas are still eligible to receive up to 6 weeks of PFL, but your job is not protected during this time.

Some extra thoughts 

The progressive thinking of company heads like Branson and Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, who provides paid paternity leave for 17 weeks, helps to shed light on the importance of paid paternity leave. I also hope through these paternity break-throughs it will help take the stigma out of paternity leave. It takes a village to raise an infant and us moms need back up! [kind of joking] But in all seriousness, the first few months of a baby’s life is precious and dads shouldn’t be denied of experiencing that amazing time.

Happy paternity leave!

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Did you or your spouse/partner take paternity leave? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

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