Paternity leave is a type of employee leave that allows fathers or partners to take time off from work to care for their new child.

Paternity leave is job-protected time off that allows fathers to bond with their new children, participate in childcare responsibilities, support the family, and adjust during the early stages of parenthood.

The specific parameters of paternity leave vary by jurisdiction and company policy, including eligibility and availability, duration, and compensation.  

Paternity vs. maternity leave

Maternity leave is a type of employee leave that allows mothers to take off work before and after the birth of their child or to take leave when they adopt or foster children. Mothers use maternity leave to prepare for childbirth, recover from the birthing process, and care for their new child.

In many countries, maternity leave is a mandatory employee benefit. For example, mothers in Germany receive six weeks of paid maternity leave before their due date and another eight weeks after birth. Other countries, including France, Norway, and Iceland, require that employers offer paid maternity leave.

While maternity leave is often more common and provides more time off or payment benefits than paternity leave, many countries and company policies grant fathers or partners leave to take time off for bonding, childcare, and supporting the mother.

Read more: Guide to Paid Maternity Leave By Country

Paternity vs. parental leave

While paternity leave is specific to fathers or partners of mothers having, adopting, or fostering children, parental leave is a leave benefit available for either parent. Parental leave may have different meanings depending on the company or jurisdiction.

Employers may refer to parental leave instead of maternity or paternity leave as part of a gender-neutral family leave policy. In the U.S., parental leave refers to policies that include leave for an employee to care for a newborn, recently adopted, foster, or child otherwise needing parental care.

Alternatively, employers may offer parental leave in addition to paternity or maternity leave to allow a mother, father, or caregiver to take care of a child. For example, parental leave policies in the Netherlands allow parents, parents of adopted or fostered children, and primary caretakers with children under eight years old to take time off for parental leave. 

Who is eligible for paternity leave?

The eligibility requirements for paternity leave vary by jurisdiction and organization, but employers typically grant paternity leave to eligible employees whose partners are birthing, adopting, or fostering children.

A few general conditions that may determine whether an employee is or is not qualified for paternity leave include:

  • Employment status. Whether an employee is full-time, part-time, temporary, or contractor may impact paternity leave entitlements
  • Legal requirements. Employers must follow local labor laws and regulations related to paternity leave eligibility.
  • Notification. Employees must usually inform their employers about their intention to take paternity leave within a specified timeframe.
  • Adoption and fostering considerations. Paternity leave eligibility may extend to employees who are adopting or fostering children. 
  • Company policies. Employers may outline additional paternity leave eligibility criteria within internal company leave guidelines.
  • Social security contributions. Some countries may connect employees' eligibility for paternity leave benefits based on their contributions to Social Security or similar national programs.

Is paternity leave required by law?

There is no global legal requirement for paternity leave, and employee entitlements vary depending on jurisdiction.

For instance, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the U.S. requires that employers with more than 50 employees provide 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave for employees to care for a new child or family member.

Read more: Guide to U.S. Required Employee Benefits

How many days is paternity leave in the U.S.?

The FMLA in the U.S. grants eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for medical or family situations, which includes the birth and care of a newborn child.

Worldwide, the duration of paternity leave varies by jurisdiction and individual company policies; however, many jurisdictions have established legal minimum lengths for paternity leave.

Is paternity leave paid?

Depending on state and country laws and company policies, paternity leave can be paid, unpaid, or partially paid. Sixty-three percent of countries worldwide provide guaranteed paid parental leave for fathers.

While there is no requirement for national paid paternity leave in the U.S., some states have statewide paid paternity leave programs funded through employee payroll deductions. For example, Washington, D.C. allows for eight weeks of paid parental leave.

Under the FMLA, federal employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for both mothers and fathers. Other U.S. companies may offer paid paternity leave in their supplemental benefits packages to attract and retain talent and compete with the hiring market.

Countries with mandatory paternity leave

In many countries, paternity leave is a statutory benefit employers must provide their employees.

Here are a few examples of countries that mandate paternity leave:

  • Japan. Fathers in Japan receive four weeks at 67% pay, capped at ¥15,190 per day, and extendable up to 52 weeks.
  • Norway. Fathers in Norway receive 49 weeks at 100% pay (or 59 weeks at 80% pay).
  • Sweden. Fathers in Sweden receive 240 days off work to care for a new child, with 195 days at 100% pay and the remaining days at 180 SEK per day.
  • Iceland. Fathers in Iceland may take six months of paid leave at 80% of their regular earnings.

Read more: Top 10 Countries For Employee Benefits

Why is paternity leave an important employee benefit?

Paternity leave is a significant employee benefit that promotes a healthy work-life balance and encourages fathers to actively participate in the upbringing of their children and support their partners.

Additionally, global employers providing paternity leave ensure fair and equitable benefits across their diverse and distributed workforce where country regulations differ.

Providing generous paternity leave to a global workforce also helps attract and retain top talent. Employers with accommodating parental leave policies demonstrate a commitment to their employees’ well-being, various needs, and work-life balance.

This competitive benefit attracts high-quality talent, promotes a positive employer brand, supports a positive workplace culture, and fosters employee loyalty and satisfaction.

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Disclaimer: The intent of this document is solely to provide general and preliminary information for private use. Do not rely on it as an alternative to legal, financial, taxation, or accountancy advice from an appropriately qualified professional. © 2024 Velocity Global, LLC. All rights reserved.

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