Ask An Advisor: FMLA Leave for New Fathers

Did you know it’s not just new mothers who get time off under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for the birth of a child? That’s right. Fathers can also take leave under the federal FMLA to do late-night feedings, be showered with baby spit-up and change diapers. In fact, an increasing number of fathers are asking for time off to do just that!

FMLA regulations outline that both parents are entitled to FMLA leave for the birth of their child. When a father asks for time off, employers should follow their normal process for determining FMLA eligibility. A father working for an employer with 50 or more employees must have been employed by the organization for 12 months and have worked 1,250 hours within the past 12 months. Meeting these requirements allows a new father to take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave within the first 12 months from the date of the child’s birth. Since FMLA provides 12 weeks of leave within a 12-month period, if a father has previously taken FMLA leave within the past 12 months, he may only be entitled to a portion of leave that remains available.

A father also may not be entitled to the full 12 weeks if his spouse works at the same place of employment. Under the regulations, spouses working at the same employer must share the 12 weeks of FMLA leave for the birth of their child. However, unmarried mothers and fathers do not have to share the 12 weeks of FMLA leave even if they work at the same employer. As with other FMLA leave requests, employers should take steps to determine the amount of leave remaining and provide the FMLA designation notice.

I know what you’re going to ask next: Can we ask for proof? In general, yes. Remember, the Department of Labor has indicated that employers should not be using the physician’s certification for the birth of the child. However, an employer may request documentation, like a birth certificate or some type of court document, to confirm the family relationship. Some companies have developed their own “affidavit” form that employees sign to confirm the family relationship.

Another question HR professionals often have is whether FMLA leave can be taken intermittently. Technically, an employer must agree to the intermittent leave for the birth of a child. However, if an employer is going to deny requests for intermittent leave for baby bonding, that information should be included in company policy and the policy should be administered consistently and fairly. One other note: If the newborn develops a serious medical condition, intermittent leave may not be denied.

If you want to know more about the FMLA or have other HR questions, we’d love to help! Give us a call or send an e-mail. We’re also available by chat. It’s one of the most valued benefits of SHRM membership!

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