Question: I’m a new Dad who would like to take some time off to spend with my daughter. I’m a little embarrassed to ask my own HR department about this but I was wondering what options do I have?
Answer: First let me say, CONGRATULATIONS! A new daughter is a handful (I know from experience). Both my husband and I took time off when both our kids were born and it was a wonderful experience for both of us. Don’t be embarrassed about approaching HR, more and more fathers are taking time off to spend with their newborn children and it is quickly becoming a standard. As a result, the laws have evolved to accommodate this new trend.
A parent is defined as a man or woman who is the birth parent of a child, adopts a child, becomes a step-parent or is in a long-lasting relationship with the parent of a child and intends to treat the child as his or her own. You are entitled to parental leave as long as you have been employed with your organization for thirteen weeks.
An employee must start their parental leave no later than fifty-two weeks after the day the child is born or comes into the parent’s care for the first time. Where an employee takes pregnancy leave, she is required to begin her parental leave at the end of the pregnancy leave unless the child has not yet come into her care, custody or control.
You will still have certain employee benefit plans while on parental leave. This includes paying the employer portion of the pension, life insurance, accidental death, extended health, dental, and any other benefit plan unless you give written notice that you do not want to keep making payments. Seniority and length of service continue to accrue during parental leave.
Once you are ready to go back to work, if the job you held still exists, the employer must return you to the position. If the job no longer exists, in most cases, you are entitled to a comparable position. The only reason you will not have a job is if your employment was terminated for reasons unrelated to your leave. An example of this would be corporate restructuring where entire departments are laid off as seen during the high-tech melt down.
Finally, if the wages of your job increased while you were on leave, the employer is obligated to pay the higher wage.
Generally, the legislation prohibits any employer from intimidating, dismissing, or otherwise penalizing an employee, or threatening to do so, because the employee is or will become eligible to take pregnancy or parental leave.
You’ll have to give two weeks’ notice before you start your leave, but don’t worry, you are protected, and if they tell you otherwise, seek legal advice. Enjoy your time off, you’ll love it.