Lourdes Villalobos loves sharing beauty advice and tips with her readers.
Paternity leave gives new fathers a wonderful opportunity to bond with their babies. By taking time off from work, you can focus on your newborn and be present for this precious time. You’ll also be able to support your partner in practical ways as well as emotionally during this life-changing period of adjustment. But how do you go about asking your employer? You might not know how to go about it, or what to expect. Here are the steps you can take.
How to Request Paternity Leave
- Understand your rights.
- With your partner, make a detailed transition plan. (See topics to discuss below.)
- Create a case.
- Approach the right people.
Understanding Your Rights
As there isn’t a standard paid family leave policy for the whole US, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to the situation. So your first step is to research what rights you have at various levels. Knowledge is power, after all—you’ll be glad you know how to soothe a baby's hiccups once your little one has arrived! And knowledge will help you understand what paternity leave you’re entitled to. It will also help manage your expectations about what is, and isn’t, possible.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- When it comes to federal rights, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave and maintained group health benefits annually.
- The act applies to all companies with at least 50 employees, elementary/secondary schools, and public agencies.
- You need to have worked for your employer for at least a year; for at least 1,250 hours over the last year; and at a location where they employ 50 or more people within 75 miles.
Educate yourself about your state and local rights, too, as well as your company’s own policy for paternity leave (if they have one). Some states offer paid leave in some form, and you can find out if yours does by looking at your state’s labor site.
Make a Detailed Transition Plan
With a baby on the way, you’ll likely be used to making plans. You might have already filled in a free birth plan template online which can give you the confidence to plan for after the baby arrives.
If you’re parenting with a partner, discuss your plans for how everything will work. You could start with the big picture and both of your dreams and hopes. Then you could consider the practicalities and logistics. Compare each of your organizations’ family leave policies.
Paternity Leave Options to Discuss With Your Partner
Remember you’re unique, and you don’t have to follow a set plan. If you’re eligible for leave, you don’t necessarily have to take it all in one go. You might prefer to take a few weeks off, head back to work, and then take the rest of your leave at a later date (within the first year of birth)—perhaps when your partner returns to work. You might even choose to go part-time for a while, taking a couple of days off per week. That might work best for your employer, too. You might also want to ask if you can put some of your paid time off (PTO) toward your paternity leave.
Create a Case
Sure, you’re not stepping into a courtroom in front of a judge, but you do need to put your case forward to your employer in the most effective way. You want to make sure your paternity leave doesn’t leave your company in the lurch. Your employer will no doubt feel much more comfortable about the situation if you’ve shown them how it can work out well for everyone involved.
This is where your detailed transition plan comes into play. Clearly write out your forthcoming projects and deadlines, and how these can be managed in your absence. Consider what should be prioritized. Can you complete essential tasks before your leave? Who could take on key aspects of your role while you’re not there? How will you manage the handover? You might find a spreadsheet is a useful way to present this information.
Approach the Right People
The people you speak to in your organization, the order in which you approach them, and the timing of your discussions are vital. For example, you need to give at least 30 days’ notice for FMLA. Check if your company has a procedure in place that you should follow. Your HR department should be able to help.
If you have a good relationship with your manager, you might choose to have an informal, general discussion with them. You might know of other people in your company who have taken paternity leave and might want to find out how it worked for them.
Remember, this doesn’t just affect you but your coworkers and your boss, too. The key to a successful negotiation is to make it a collaborative process. You’ll want to look for the solution that works best for everyone. After all, your boss will be relieved to hear you’re committed to your job and your organization, and you want to help ensure your paternity leave won’t adversely impact the company. You’ll be returning to your role soon enough, so you’ll also want to be stepping back into a positive situation.
With these tips on how to ask your company for paternity leave, you can feel confident about making the most of this milestone moment in your life.
To find out more about the many benefits of paternity leave for men, read more.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Lourdes Villalobos