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Paternity Leave is No Joke [HorroR Stories]

Recently, in the comments for my post on the perils and ennui of FMLA, Ernessa requested that I address Paternity Leave, since my post was more focused on Maternity Leave. So, for Ernessa and all you men out there who are about to be fathers, maybe could someday be fathers, don’t want to be fathers but might be kind of curious why they had to cover for Joey last year when his wife had twins, or wives/baby mamas who need ammunition in their arguments with their husbands/baby daddies as to why they need to take time off to care for the new baby—this one is for you.

True story, here is a reenactment of a conversation I had once with an executive regarding paternity leave:

Me: Hi Dave, I just heard from Mike that he is going to be taking Paternity Leave for a month in August.
Dave: (laughing) Paternity Leave?
Me: Yes, his wife is due August 1, so he’s thinking it will start around then.
Dave: (laughing harder) Paternity Leave?
Me: Yes, so we have a couple of months to plan ahead. Do you need any resources from HR to help plan for his absence? A temp employee perhaps?
Dave: (still laughing) Come on…
Me: So, you should think about coordinating schedules, especially if others in that department are planning on taking vacation in August…
Dave: (laughing a little less) Seriously? Paternity Leave?
Me: Yes
Dave: Is that even a thing?
Me: Yes
Dave: (not laughing anymore) For a month?!?
Me: Well he’s eligible for 12 weeks, he’s only taking a month
Dave: And we have to let him do this?

Yes Dave, sorry to say, but in 2012 Paternity Leave is no joke. And that’s great, right? Yay men! Now not only are you there for the birth but you’re there for some of the stuff that comes after. Hooray! Burt Reynolds would be so proud of you, modern day dads! (And if you get that obscure Burt Reynolds-Paternity joke then you can join my special club for old people who like crappy comedies from the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. Foul Play anyone? Who doesn’t love making fun of the Pope? He looks Jewish! It’s hilarious!)

I’m sure you all remember fondly my FMLA post from a few weeks ago. The deal with Paternity Leave is that it’s pretty much the same thing, except for the whole “disabled due to pregnancy” part. Because there is no disability, everything runs concurrently, so under FMLA and CFRA you can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to take care of your new bundle of joy. This qualifies as “caring for a family member with a serious health condition” as long as it is within a year of the baby’s birth.  Apparently there isn’t a more serious health condition than being born. And it lasts for a year! There are no doctors’ notes or any of that garbage that you have to worry about, though some employers might require you to provide a birth certificate. I like to call those employers “dicks.” Did they also ask for a birth certificate before they threw you that “man shower” or whatever they called the awkward little get together in the conference room where they served blue frosted cake and gave you a gift certificate to Target?

So…simple, right? Well, maybe. As you can see from my True HorroRwood Story above, managers really don’t like Paternity Leave, they don’t get it, didn’t take it when they had children, Tim Allen never took Paternity Leave, you know…[insert animal grunt here], something about pansies, grumble, grumble. Me—personally, I love Paternity Leave. It makes me smile whenever some cute little new Dad comes and asks me about it. I just want to pinch their little spit-up stained cheeks.

Here are the points you should know about Paternity Leave:

Point 1: Unlike the whole Pregnancy Disability Leave loophole in California, you do have to be eligible for FMLA and/or CFRA to fall under the “your employer has to provide leave and has to reinstate you” part of all this. If you are not eligible, your employer might be generous and still allow the leave, however, they don’t have to maintain your benefits, they don’t have to reinstate you, and you are not necessarily guaranteed any of the perks etc. that you missed. As I’m sure you remember, to be eligible you have to have been with your employer for at least one year, and you had to have worked at least 1,250 hours in that year. Your employer also has to have at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius.

Point 2: Your manager is going to try and talk you out of it. “He can work from home right?” Managers always ask this. Here’s the thing, working from home is not a leave of absence. If you are working from home, then you are not on leave of absence. If you have one of those neat jobs where you can actually work from home, and your wife/baby mama doesn’t care if you are sitting at your laptop the entire time you are home, then this might work for you. Just remember, they don’t have to make you do this. Also remember that they shouldn’t count this time you are working at home against your leave entitlement. You are entitled to 12 weeks or 480 hours of leave in a rolling 12 month (usually, depending on your company’s policy it could also be a calendar year) period. Most importantly, they have to pay you for the time you are working from home. This includes overtime if you are eligible for overtime.

Point 3: You don’t have to take all of your leave at once, or right away. Often I will see new Dads take a couple of weeks of leave right after the baby is born, and then save the rest of their Paternity Leave until the baby is a little bit older. You have up until the baby’s first birthday to take your 12 weeks of leave, and you don’t have to take it all at once.

Point 4: Along the same lines, you can take one of those evil “intermittent” leaves. These are a nightmare to track, but actually kind of cool. So let’s say you want to take 2 days off every week to watch the baby. You can do this. In this example, you can take 16 hours a week until you hit the 480 limit, that’s 30 weeks. And your wife/baby mama can do the same thing, let’s say on alternate days.  Just think how much you’ll save on daycare costs. And how much your supervisor will hate you!

Point 5: If you and your wife/baby mama work for the same company then you only have 12 weeks of leave to take for this purpose combined. Meaning you and your wife/baby mama are sharing those 12 weeks. And, if you don’t live in a state like California that has a Pregnancy Disability Leave program that runs independently of something like CFRA (or baby bonding), then you are really out of luck, because your wife will use up some of that entitlement for the whole birth/ “disabled due to pregnancy” part. Having twins doesn’t double this, nice try there Angelina.

Point 6: Leave is unpaid, but some states, like California, have a Paid Family Leave (PFL) program that will pay you about 60% of your weekly earnings. In California, this will only pay you for 6 weeks, so if you are shooting for the entire 12 weeks then 6 of those will be without the assistance of the state. You can also use this for intermittent leaves, or if you break up your leave over the year. The state will just total it all up and once you hit 6 weeks, you are done. And, just like I mentioned in my last post, you can coordinate PFL with your sick/vacation/PTO hours from work. So, the state pays you 60% and you can fill in the gap with your paid time off, thus stretching out your available paid time off a little bit longer. Pretty sweet!

Point 7: All this stuff counts for adoptions too. I think even if you adopt a 7 year old as opposed to an infant. I don’t know that for sure, but I’m pretty sure. I could Google it, but so could you.

So there you have it, modern day men! Aren’t you glad you’re a Dad now, as opposed to the 1950’s? Back then, you’d get a call that your wife was in labor, you’d go sit in the waiting room of the hospital smoking cigars and drinking scotch until a nurse came out and told you that “it’s a boy!” Then, you’d go look at him through a window, kiss your wife on the cheek, go back to the office to smackyour secretary on the ass and then maybe see your kid again around high school graduation. Things are better now, right? Right? Sure they are! So take your government protected Paternity Leave with pride and tell Tim Allen to fuck off. Nowadays, changing diapers is as manly as home improvement or snorting cocaine! Heck ya!

Good luck out there,

Madame HR

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