Does Your Company Have a Clear Paternity Leave Policy?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on June 12, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Father's Day is a good time to revisit your company's paternity leave policy. A new father's bundle of joy could spell a bundle of questions for the legal department.

Regardless of whether or not your company is held to the FMLA, it's important to have a clear company policy on paternity leave.

Here are seven questions you should address in your company paternity leave policy:

  1. Is the company subject to the FMLA? If your company employs at least 50 people within a 75-mile radius, it's subject to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires unpaid paternity leave. Your employees will definitely want to know whether the company must abide by the FMLA.
  2. Does the state require paternity leave? A number of state laws require companies to offer paternity leave. So if your company is in a state like California or New Jersey, you will definitely want to address the state law in your paternity leave policy.
  3. How much time off does the new father get? Many companies like Yahoo are adopting more progressive parental leave policies that give pretty generous leave to dads and/or domestic partners. Yahoo, for example, now offers fathers eight weeks of paid leave for new children via childbirth, adoption, foster child placement or surrogacy, Silicon Valley's KNTV reports. A generous amount of time off can signal to fresh talent that the company understands and embraces the idea of changing cultural mores and shifting gender roles.
  4. Do employees get paid time off? Many businesses are trying to make their paternity leave policies more financially friendly to attract and retain talent. If your company currently does not offer paid paternity leave, it might be worth revisiting the idea. From baby bucks to groceries, even if the company can't shell out paid time off, consider throwing in a few financially attractive parental leave perks.
  5. How much notice do employees have to give? Since staffing adjustments go hand-in-hand with parental leave, you need to have clear guidelines on how much notice a newbie father must give. Of course, this can get complicated if a high-level employee's paternity leave might be disruptive. For that reason...
  6. Do you have a clear termination policy? If a new father is among the top 10% of wage-earners and the company can prove his absence would cause the business significant economic harm, the company doesn't have to keep his job open under the FMLA, according to the website This kind of conflict isn't ideal, of course. So if possible, try to figure out an amicable solution that's reflected in the policy.
  7. Is the company following the paternity leave policy? Once you've crafted your paternity policy, make sure management is following it. It's not uncommon for management to violate their own policies or for the rules to be unlawful (tsk, tsk in-house counsel!). Give management an annual refresher on the company policy and revisit your policy from time to time, as standard business practices and laws on paternity leave are always evolving.

Happy redlining on Papa's Day!

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