Michelle Cohen Levy

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Maternity leave has become such a common component of employee benefit programs both in Fort Lauderdale and throughout the rest of the U.S. that many may simply assume it to be inherent with their employment. Yet what about paternity leave. If your spouse is about to a have a baby, you may want to plan time off to spend with your newborn in order to both bond with it and assist your spouse in her recuperation and recovery. Yet whereas companies typically offer women 12-16 weeks of paid maternity leave, that which is offered to fathers is typically much less. 

According to information shared by the U.S. Department of Labor, currently only three states (of which Florida is not one of them) require that employers offer equal paid leave to both mothers and fathers. Such a gap in paid leave benefits exists even with statistics showing that the percentage of fathers asking for time off to take care of a newborn (or newly adopted) child more than doubled from 2005-2009 compared to 1997-2004. 

An argument might be made that the demand to extend paid paternity leave benefits simply is not there yet. Statistics compiled by the DOL show that even when fathers do request paid time off following a birth of adoption, seven in 10 still ask for less than 10 days. Still, many companies have recently begun to expand their paternity leave benefits as more awareness of this issue arises. 

An important point to remember is that the Family and Medical Leave Act entitles you (regardless of your gender) to up to 12 weeks of leave each year. Employers may ask you to count paternity leave days towards your FMLA days, or they may offer them independently. Check with your company’s benefits department to know for sure.