Every June, we celebrate the fathers in our lives and appreciate that, in general, men are more involved in childcare than previous generations.
However, according to a nationwide study conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management, only 12% of fathers took time away from work to bond with a new baby, compared with 69% of mothers. In many companies, there is confusion on the part of employees and managers alike about the amount of time new dads may, or may not be entitled to take.
Companies with 50 or more employees are covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act, which provide up to 12 weeks of protected leave for the purposes of baby bonding (among other qualifying events). Employers in this category should have well-established procedures for determining employees’ eligibility for leave and accurately administering the time off.
Time-off decisions can be more difficult for smaller employers. Friends, relatives, and California’s Paid Family Leave program may contribute to misconceptions that everyone has the right to time off when a new baby arrives. And while California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Act provides women with up to 4 months of protected leave when disabled by pregnancy or childbirth, there is no baby-bonding provision for new fathers.
The Paid Family Leave program provides partial income replacement when an employee takes an employer-approved leave of absence, but does not create the entitlement to take time off. An employer with fewer than 50 employees may provide a discretionary leave of absence to a male employee during this time, but there is no legal obligation to do so.
Employers who choose to provide discretionary leaves for new fathers should take the following items into consideration:
- While the leave may be granted on an individual basis, managers should aim for consistency among staff members, minimizing confusion and potential morale problems.
- Company policy may determine whether the employee will be limited to using accrued vacation/PTO, or whether some or all of the leave may be unpaid.
- For lengthy periods of time-off, consider implications to group health plan eligibility and arrange for payment of the employee’s portion of monthly premiums.
- Set clear expectations for return to work, and establish that the company may request the employee return earlier than planned to meet business needs.
It can be challenging to balance your company’s desire to provide a family-friendly workplace with ever-changing business demands. For assistance in tackling any family or medical leave concern, please contact Sierra HR Partners.