Are New Dads Eligible for Paternity Leave?

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on June 14, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

More new dads are taking advantage of paternity-leave benefits and laws where available, but it's still not an option for all men in the United States.

At companies where paternity leave is available, nearly six in 10 new fathers used the benefit, according to a 2007 survey by career website So if you're a new dad, how do you know if you're eligible?

In general, look to these three sources to determine if you get paternity leave:

  • Federal Law -- The Family and Medical Leave Act allows a worker to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for various family-related reasons, including becoming a new dad (or mom). But the FMLA only applies to employers with at least 50 workers, and workers must put in a certain amount of time with the employer (at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours in the previous year) before they're eligible. Because of these caveats, and a few exceptions, the FMLA only covers about 40% of U.S. workers, reports. And only 22% of new dads take advantage of FMLA leave, mainly because it's unpaid, according to this infographic comparing paternity leave practices around the world.
  • State Law -- Only a few states provide paid paternity leave: In California, new dads get 55% of weekly wages for up to six weeks; in New Jersey, new dads get 66% of weekly wages for up to six weeks; and in Washington state, new dads get $250 a week for up to five weeks.
  • Your Employer -- Paid leave can also be available through your employer, who may also offer extended unpaid leave. Ask your human resources manager for details.

If you're unclear about whether you're eligible for paternity leave, or if you feel you've been unfairly denied paternity leave, consult a local employment attorney to make sure you're getting all the time off you deserve as a new dad.

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