Author Topic: Paternity leave advice? (US) *Updated*  (Read 3171 times)

Civex

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Paternity leave advice? (US) *Updated*
« on: September 27, 2017, 05:40:15 PM »
Hey Mustachians!
 
After writing this huge post, I added a TL;DR at the bottom. Update in blue-I wanted to wait to update my post when I had good news. I really appreciate all of the recommendations and support! I was on the fence feeling like I was asking for too much.

My paternity care leave was accepted as requested! I will be taking at least 1 week at birth (gave a heads up that this could be longer if we have a complicated birth/C-section) and once my wife returns to work I will work half time for 2 months allowing the baby to stay home for 5 months before starting infant care.

It has been a super hectic last few months; we completed my leave request/application/meeting with management, secured a daycare spot at a great place, and I officially have a term life insurance policy. I'm debating on starting a Vanguard 529 this month, but know that I should finish filling up our E-fund and work on my SL first. I mentioned how I was worried that this may negatively affect my growth professionally, so I started working on a credential in November (wouldn't test for it until April) that would greatly increase my marketability/hopefully affirm my value to the org.

I'm really glad we decided for me to push for my original plan-it sets the precedent with management that family is the the top priority and will hopefully make taking future paternity leaves easier for me/and hopefully my colleagues. Because it will basically amount to half time, I will definitely have enough PTO, so the entire thing will be paid. I'm stoked to spend the end of summer with the baby!


Looking for any input/tips/advice or maybe just some encouragement with taking paternity leave. My wife and I are very excited that our family is growing this spring and are far enough along now that we felt comfortable telling our employers, and are starting to navigate leave.

Background: We are both younger professionals a few years into our careers- my wife has been with her company nearly 3 years and I have been with mine for just over a year. She plans on taking the full 12 weeks offered through FMLA, and I would like to take 6-10 weeks. She will receive 6 weeks at 60% pay and I receive zero paid weeks and am required to use PTO before taking unpaid time. I work the typical Mon-Fri grind and she works 12 hour shifts.

I developed a plan where I would take ~1 week completely off at birth, return to work, and then take the bulk of my leave when she returns to work. Partly to reduce the burden on my employer and partly to reduce the burden on our budget, I would like to take my leave as reduced hours-basically only working the days she can stay home with the baby. This would put me at half time and I have enough PTO to make up the difference and allow me to take 8 weeks at (50%) reduced hours. This would have the least impact on our budget, and allow us to keep our new baby home for 5 vs 3 months.

We have the means for me to take the time completely off, but with our staffing model I thought that going half time would allow me to stay up to speed, make things less difficult for my direct supervisor, and have a lesser impact on our finances. I brought this plan to my supervisor last week and he approached the department director about it today. The director felt that taking off a block of time would be better, but strongly recommended that I contact HR because the director had concerns that it wouldn't be possible/wouldn't be protected leave (as the dad.)

I felt like I was getting a bit of push back on this-though after contacting HR (who assured me what I'd like to do is FMLA/protected and possible) my supervisor did say he thinks it will work and will speak with the director (I've seen him play good cop and the director play bad cop, though..). I'm worried now that while I'm within my rights to request a leave, that it could hurt me professionally. I don't love working, but this is a good position and I would really like to stay here until FIRE (>10 more years.) I've tried casually chatting with other guys roughly my age with kids and they took like a week off when their kids were born. I know a big part of that is finances and I'm hoping that the odd looks are due to them wondering how we could handle the pay cut, but part of me is freaking out that I could get fired for something minor or sent to a crappy "equivalent" position with the org. I've had negative experiences in the past with management (not at this company) and scheduling and as a result get really fired up about PTO/scheduling. If it matters, I have only used ~30 hours PTO (including Holidays) in the 14 months I've been with this company and have accrued ~170.

TL;DR
Having a baby, requested long(ish?) paternity leave, looked at like I have 3 heads, and scared there will be retaliation. Could also just be overanalyzing...


« Last Edit: December 12, 2017, 06:56:42 PM by Civex »

jeromedawg

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2017, 06:53:01 PM »
Congrats! Get ready is all I can say haha :)

What state are you in BTW? FMLA is super-tricky in my experience. I've heard that if you're taking a block of time away, the company is supposed to disable your access and it's sort of a PITA. This is the experience with my company at least. If you're taking intermittent leave, I don't think they would do that though and I *think* you could potentially schedule certain numbers of days off per week (you might even be able to do half-days) - this definitely would be a question for HR though in terms of what they allow. I think it may vary based on your company and their policies as far as how the FMLA is to be taken. HR may just be giving you the run around because they don't want to have to deal with the trouble of dichotomizing the FMLA time apart from your PTO and also normal working hours... I can see this being a big PITA.

Sorry I couldn't be of more help but I think there are probably others here, specializing in HR, who are pretty knowledgeable in the area and can provide more sound advice.

Here are a couple of resources I found briefly searching:
https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs28i.pdf
http://www.fmlainsights.com/fmla-faq-how-do-i-calculate-fmla-leave-where-my-employees-work-schedule-varies-from-week-to-week/
« Last Edit: September 27, 2017, 06:58:24 PM by jeromedawg »

Civex

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2017, 08:36:07 PM »
Thank you!

We are trying to get ready! I am in super type A mode trying to figure out leave, HSAs, insurance, colleges, and baby equipment; luckily my wife is more laid back (and less stressed)-I think we are balancing each other out.

I didn't even think about the fact that taking intermittent or reduced time leave may result in more paperwork for the company and it makes a lot of sense. I have read through some of the FAQs on DOL, and will continue to do so. Thank you for the sources, I will definitely read through them in detail.

We are in lovely Minnesota.


jeromedawg

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2017, 10:00:31 PM »
Thank you!

We are trying to get ready! I am in super type A mode trying to figure out leave, HSAs, insurance, colleges, and baby equipment; luckily my wife is more laid back (and less stressed)-I think we are balancing each other out.

I didn't even think about the fact that taking intermittent or reduced time leave may result in more paperwork for the company and it makes a lot of sense. I have read through some of the FAQs on DOL, and will continue to do so. Thank you for the sources, I will definitely read through them in detail.

We are in lovely Minnesota.

College?! hahaha whaaat? HSAs might be a big one - I got us on HSA transitioning from my last company into the current (this was right before my wife got pregnant with our second). I should have just kept us on HMO because HSA PPO pricing is crazy expensive especially with pregnancy/birth. Do you get any paid family leave from Minnesota?

MayDay

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2017, 05:17:46 AM »
I'm in MN.

I think it is just a cultural shift. Dad's typically don't take full FMLA for a baby, and there is push back. It is super sexist. Of course any new parent regardless of gender should take leave when there is a new child. Whether it was pushed out their own vag or adopted or whatever. But it still seen at some companies as a lady thing.

Men pushing back individually and taking their parental leave is really the only way to change that. Ideally it would happen from.the top down, ie senior leadership takes it. My VP took a month unpaid last summer to take a trip with her kids which really sets the tone for the rest of us that taking time off work is ok at my company.

It might help to frame it as "the daycare we picked has a spot starting in _______" or "my wife really wants the baby to stay out of daycare until 5 months". Better not to make excuses be and just own your rights to take leave, but I know it can be hard.

dreams_and_discoveries

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2017, 05:38:32 AM »
I have to commend you for taking a step for equality - the female population needs men like you to be trailblazers, to challenge the cultural belief that babies are women's responsibility.

Thanks and Congratulations.


charis

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2017, 08:30:05 AM »
Your story is very similar to an office in which I used to work.   Someone has to take the first step if none of the other dads in the office have taken a longer paternity leave.  So, unfortunately, you are probably getting some looks for exercising your right to paternity leave. 

But I don't see how they can fire your for taking FMLA leave if you are otherwise entitled to it.  That's a discrimination lawsuit waiting to filed (being treated differently because you are a man). 

I think your reputation in the office could take a hit temporarily, but I believe the tide is changing for fathers taking leave and people will get over it quickly.  Good luck!

MommyCake

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2017, 09:20:14 AM »
Congrats!!

It is my understanding that FMLA requires that you take paid leave first.  Since you have accrued 170 hours (over 4 weeks), you should be permitted to take that PLUS 12 weeks unpaid leave, if you so choose.  FMLA leave does not have to be taken as a block; it can be taken however you need it.  Again, this is only my understanding; it could be these are the rules specific to my agency.

No else has mentioned this yet, but I think you should consider taking more than one week off at the birth.  When my first baby was born, my fiancee took two weeks off.  I was in labor for 37 hours, plus had to stay at the hospital an additional 48 hours after delivery.  That's four days of hospital alone.  Your wife will probably really appreciate you staying home to help her out and so you can all adjust to everything.  Just my two cents. 

Not allowing an employee to take family leave is a big deal.  As others have said, this could turn into a big lawsuit for them, or at least a headache.  I suggest you be firm about what you need, and let them know you are aware of your rights under FMLA.  I have a co-worker who took two days off a week for months under the FMLA, to take her mother to therapy.  I have a friend who once had to take off every Friday during the summer when school was out due to child care issues.  The law is there to help you, and protect you.  The only concern I had when I read your post was about your wife's schedule... if she is working 12 shifts with no set schedule, there is really no way to plan in advance with your job what days you will be in or out.  It would be better if you could tell your company, "I would like to take x amount of time off at once, and then I will work Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays for the next 3 months" or whatever. 

charis

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2017, 10:06:27 AM »
Congrats!!

It is my understanding that FMLA requires that you take paid leave first.  Since you have accrued 170 hours (over 4 weeks), you should be permitted to take that PLUS 12 weeks unpaid leave, if you so choose.  FMLA leave does not have to be taken as a block; it can be taken however you need it.  Again, this is only my understanding; it could be these are the rules specific to my agency.

I don't think that this is accurate.  FLMA only requires the employer to give you the leave.  It can be paid, if you have paid leave that you want to use or the employer provides, or unpaid, but it doesn't guarantee a separate 12-week period of leave apart from any paid leave.   For instance if you bank 6 months of paid leave (sick + annual), your employer is not required to give you an additional 3 months or even approve paid leave over the 12-week FLMA period.

Finances_With_Purpose

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2017, 10:09:17 AM »
Hey Mustachians!
 
After writing this huge post, I added a TL;DR at the bottom.

Looking for any input/tips/advice or maybe just some encouragement with taking paternity leave. My wife and I are very excited that our family is growing this spring and are far enough along now that we felt comfortable telling our employers, and are starting to navigate leave.

Background: We are both younger professionals a few years into our careers- my wife has been with her company nearly 3 years and I have been with mine for just over a year. She plans on taking the full 12 weeks offered through FMLA, and I would like to take 6-10 weeks. She will receive 6 weeks at 60% pay and I receive zero paid weeks and am required to use PTO before taking unpaid time. I work the typical Mon-Fri grind and she works 12 hour shifts.

I developed a plan where I would take ~1 week completely off at birth, return to work, and then take the bulk of my leave when she returns to work. Partly to reduce the burden on my employer and partly to reduce the burden on our budget, I would like to take my leave as reduced hours-basically only working the days she can stay home with the baby. This would put me at half time and I have enough PTO to make up the difference and allow me to take 8 weeks at (50%) reduced hours. This would have the least impact on our budget, and allow us to keep our new baby home for 5 vs 3 months.

We have the means for me to take the time completely off, but with our staffing model I thought that going half time would allow me to stay up to speed, make things less difficult for my direct supervisor, and have a lesser impact on our finances. I brought this plan to my supervisor last week and he approached the department director about it today. The director felt that taking off a block of time would be better, but strongly recommended that I contact HR because the director had concerns that it wouldn't be possible/wouldn't be protected leave (as the dad.)

I felt like I was getting a bit of push back on this-though after contacting HR (who assured me what I'd like to do is FMLA/protected and possible) my supervisor did say he thinks it will work and will speak with the director (I've seen him play good cop and the director play bad cop, though..). I'm worried now that while I'm within my rights to request a leave, that it could hurt me professionally. I don't love working, but this is a good position and I would really like to stay here until FIRE (>10 more years.) I've tried casually chatting with other guys roughly my age with kids and they took like a week off when their kids were born. I know a big part of that is finances and I'm hoping that the odd looks are due to them wondering how we could handle the pay cut, but part of me is freaking out that I could get fired for something minor or sent to a crappy "equivalent" position with the org. I've had negative experiences in the past with management (not at this company) and scheduling and as a result get really fired up about PTO/scheduling. If it matters, I have only used ~30 hours PTO (including Holidays) in the 14 months I've been with this company and have accrued ~170.

TL;DR
Having a baby, requested long(ish?) paternity leave, looked at like I have 3 heads, and scared there will be retaliation. Could also just be overanalyzing...

It's hard for any of us to speculate as we don't know your employer or even your field.  In my experience, yes, you can and very well may be punished for taking paternity leave.  Had a friend do it and his employer grumbled about it a little...then as soon as he returned and a few weeks had passed, they fired him.  They let it be known that was why.  I've heard other similar stories. 

Companies want to advertise that they're respecting fatherhood and all that, but in reality, most people, especially employers, still expect 'dad' to show up for work and be the main worker (except maybe right when the kid is born).  The brochures and policies ARE NOT the same as what your employer actually finds acceptable.  Over and over again, I've watched people take the HR policy or manual at face value, then realize they tanked their careers with that employer after doing so. 

None of us know your employer or even your field, so it's hard for us to give you insight about your specific situation.  My guess, though, is that taking leave so much later also looks bad/doesn't help with your situation either. 

At any rate, best of luck with it.

historienne

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2017, 10:16:39 AM »

I don't think that this is accurate.  FLMA only requires the employer to give you the leave.  It can be paid, if you have paid leave that you want to use or the employer provides, or unpaid, but it doesn't guarantee a separate 12-week period of leave apart from any paid leave.   For instance if you bank 6 months of paid leave (sick + annual), your employer is not required to give you an additional 3 months or even approve paid leave over the 12-week FLMA period.

This is also my understanding.  Also, employers do not have to allow intermittent leave for parental bonding - ie, they can require you to take the leave in one big chunk, if they want (my husband's employer had this requirement).  They probably do have to follow whatever policy they've already set up.

It's true that people may be surprised that you want to actually take leave.  Paternity leave is still non-normative in many companies, which sucks.  But if you otherwise are considered a good employee, I doubt that this is going to torpedo your career.  And if it does, frankly, you are probably going to find that the company makes it difficult to be a working parent in a whole host of ways.  People who side-eye paternity leave are generally not particularly enthused when you have to stay home with a sick child, or leave a meeting early to make daycare pickup.  Assuming that you and your wife want to split the responsibilities of parenting equally, you might as well go ahead and find out if that's a realistic goal in your current position.  And if not, you should look for a new job.  Nothing about the way you describe your job makes me think that it's worth sacrificing your parental responsibilities for. 

Psychstache

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2017, 10:18:52 AM »
Agree with the poster above that said 1 week up front might be a little low. If you don't have other help coming (ex. mother in law staying with you after the birth) you might want to do more up front.

My wife ended up in labor for close to 24 hours and having a c section, so only having one week would've been rough. I took 4 weeks off and for me that turned out to be pretty much the right amount of time to get acclimated to the baby and help my wife recover.

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MiserlyMiser

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2017, 10:29:07 AM »
I have to commend you for taking a step for equality - the female population needs men like you to be trailblazers, to challenge the cultural belief that babies are women's responsibility.

Thanks and Congratulations.
Seconding.  There will never be equality in this country until it is recognized that men are equally responsible for raising their children.  So, thank you!

robartsd

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2017, 10:34:59 AM »
Sounds like your HR department knows FMLA well enough. While you have a plan and you shared it with your management, you are not required to stick to the plan. You are entitled to take up to the equivlient of 12 weeks off and can choose to distribute it any way you like. If you feel any retaliation, document it and consult a labor attorney if needed. Of course you'll expect that this much time off means you're gaining less experience at work, so a slight delay in earning the next promotion is not retaliation. Do what's best for your family and budget.

NeonPegasus

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2017, 11:26:57 AM »
I think framing your leave solution as a way to help your family while minimizing impact at work shows you're a pretty good employee. I went part time for awhile after having my first and believe me, my company got darn near a full time amount of work out of me. The company is likely confused about how to implement it as it can impact a wide range of benefits, etc.

I took 6 mo off with my first two (and part time for another 6 mo after the first) and none with my 3rd (by that time I was self-employed working with my husband in our business). I do not regret the time off in the slightest and I will posit that you will never regret taking that time off either, even if it has negative outcomes for your job. You can get another job. You can't get that time back.


patchyfacialhair

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #15 on: September 28, 2017, 12:02:48 PM »
Anecdotal: I took 5 weeks, wife took 12. I'm glad I did it in one block. Babies are exhausting at times and the ability to take the kid off her hands while she eats, showers, etc is priceless. 1 week after birth we were both still mentally exhausted and she was still pretty tender on her feet (v birth). I admire your goal of doing it yourself after her leave is up but I'd consider what I've mentioned. You'll figure out a way to make the money work regardless.

It'll be even more important for you to be with her should she undergo a c-section, since her mobility will be limited.

Obviously if you have family helping that's awesome, but she may want to see you, not anyone else during this awesome time.

mm1970

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #16 on: September 28, 2017, 01:09:50 PM »

I don't think that this is accurate.  FLMA only requires the employer to give you the leave.  It can be paid, if you have paid leave that you want to use or the employer provides, or unpaid, but it doesn't guarantee a separate 12-week period of leave apart from any paid leave.   For instance if you bank 6 months of paid leave (sick + annual), your employer is not required to give you an additional 3 months or even approve paid leave over the 12-week FLMA period.

This is also my understanding.  Also, employers do not have to allow intermittent leave for parental bonding - ie, they can require you to take the leave in one big chunk, if they want (my husband's employer had this requirement).  They probably do have to follow whatever policy they've already set up.

It's true that people may be surprised that you want to actually take leave.  Paternity leave is still non-normative in many companies, which sucks.  But if you otherwise are considered a good employee, I doubt that this is going to torpedo your career.  And if it does, frankly, you are probably going to find that the company makes it difficult to be a working parent in a whole host of ways.  People who side-eye paternity leave are generally not particularly enthused when you have to stay home with a sick child, or leave a meeting early to make daycare pickup.  Assuming that you and your wife want to split the responsibilities of parenting equally, you might as well go ahead and find out if that's a realistic goal in your current position.  And if not, you should look for a new job.  Nothing about the way you describe your job makes me think that it's worth sacrificing your parental responsibilities for.
Yes, this is the case.

I'm in CA. Our laws here state that the company can require you to use your vacation, UP TO TWO WEEKS.  So my company tried to require me to use all 3 that I had saved (what mom wants to go back to work with zero PTO?  Seriously, new parents and babies get sick.)  I pushed back to two weeks.

FMLA is time off only.  Companies can require you to take your PTO. (One way around this is to burn through it before you go out.)

As far as "all at once" or "intermittent", it is up to the company.  I'd imagine that some companies would like the "3 days a week" thing, and others would think it was too messy paperwork wise.

One of my coworkers took all 12 of his weeks, at the end of the first year.
My husband took 6 weeks with kid #1, and probably only 1 or 2 with kid #2.  But with the first kid, he took 2 weeks at the beginning, then the other 4 weeks one week at a time throughout the first year.

Please take the time off!  Be a trendsetter!  So few men do that.  Still.  More common here in CA though.

robartsd

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #17 on: September 28, 2017, 01:54:24 PM »
As far as "all at once" or "intermittent", it is up to the company.
I'm pretty sure it is not up to the employer (at least in California, I'm more familliar with the combined results than the details of FMLA and CFRA looked at separately). The employer can assign you to a different "equivilent" position temporariy if needed to accomidate your intermittent scheduled, but cannot outright deny your request due to the intermittent schedule.

Bruinguy

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #18 on: September 28, 2017, 02:31:59 PM »
If your immediate boss is ok with it, my guess is that you will be ok.  The more you care about your job with this company the more you would ask your immediate boss what would work best for him and the company and take that into consideration in your decision on how and how long to take leave.

Your best bet for a long future with the company will be to kick ass when you come back. 

slappy

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US)
« Reply #19 on: September 28, 2017, 03:16:56 PM »
Maybe you will be the catalyst for your company adding a paternity policy. My company recently added a 6 week paid leave for new fathers.  Like the maternity leave policy (16 weeks paid), it can be broken up into chunks.

Civex

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US) *Updated*
« Reply #20 on: December 12, 2017, 06:57:38 PM »
Original post updated with result.

Gin1984

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US) *Updated*
« Reply #21 on: December 12, 2017, 07:28:10 PM »
Maternity leave/paternity leave is NOT eligible for intermittent FMLA.  Thankfully many HR reps don't know this, however.   This is federal, there may be states that have different rules.

Civex

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Re: Paternity leave advice? (US) *Updated*
« Reply #22 on: December 12, 2017, 08:04:19 PM »
Maternity leave/paternity leave is NOT eligible for intermittent FMLA.  Thankfully many HR reps don't know this, however.   This is federal, there may be states that have different rules.

The way I read it, it is allowed in my state, but they require additional paperwork certifying the need for intermittent leave-the MD was happy to sign it for us. I should be ok, I specifically addressed intermittent and reduced hour leave with our HR "leave specialist" prior to making my request, and everything is signed off. I also documented the hell out of the whole process :)