New fathers have the same rights as new mothers under the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA. As long as your employer is covered by the FMLA and you are a qualifying employee, you are entitled to as much as 12 work weeks in unpaid leave within a 12-month period. The leave allotment is per individual, so the baby's mother is also entitled to the same amount of FMLA leave as long as she qualifies.
Reasons for a New Father to Request Leave
Your reason for requesting FMLA leave can be as simple as bonding with your newly born or newly adopted child. You can also request leave prior to your child’s birth if your baby’s mother becomes so ill or incapacitated during pregnancy that she is unable to care for herself. This also applies to the post-birth period.
Only employers with at least 50 employees within 75 miles of its workplace are required to provide FMLA leave. Those that do not meet those criteria are exempt, so they do not have to grant you leave. You must also have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to you requesting leave. Your health insurance and other benefits will remain intact during this time and you must be reinstated at the same employment level as when you left. The only exception is if you are among the highest paid 10 percent of employees. In this case, your employer has to give you written notice at the time you request or start your leave that you are a key employee and you risk not being reinstated at the same level when you return. Your employer must demonstrate that the company will suffer financially due to your absence.
- United States Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division: Fact Sheet #28: The Family and Medical Leave Act
- United States Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division: When Can a Parent Take Leave for a Newborn?
- AAUW: Know Your Rights: The Family and Medical Leave Act
- United States Department of Labor, Family and Medical Leave Act Advisor: Key Employees and Their Rights
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