A Father's

Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family Leave Act (its real name is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993) is not a simple document to understand so it's no small wonder that you're confused. Here's a summary of what it means for fathers:

Who can take the leave? Any person is eligible who works for a public agency (federal, state, or local) or a private-sector company that employs fifty or more people. You must have been employed by that company for at least twelve months, and have worked at least 1,250 hours. This covers about two-thirds of the total U.S. labor force.

How much leave can you take? Eligible employees can take up to twelve work weeks of leave at any time during the twelve-month period that starts the day your child is born or adopted. If you and your partner are employed by the same company, though, you may be entitled to only a total of twelve weeks between you. You don't have to take it all in one chunk—you may be able to arrange to take every Friday off for a year rather than 12 weeks straight.

Is it paid? Employers are not required to pay you your salary while you're on leave. But say your employer pays for six weeks of family leave; you're still entitled to take another six without pay.

What about benefits? Your employer must maintain your coverage under the company's health plan for the duration of your leave.

Is your job protected? In most cases, yes, you are protected. Your employer cannot fire or replace you while you're on leave unless he or she can prove that your being gone has caused "substantial and grievous economic injury to the operations of the employer."

Do you have to give notice? Under the Act, you're required to give your employer at least thirty days' notice before taking your family leave. But the more notice you give, the more time everyone will have to get used to the idea.

Check with your state's employment department to see whether it offers family-leave benefits that are more liberal than those of the federal program. In some states, California, for example, companies that employ as few as twenty-five or fewer people are required to offer their employees family leave (as opposed to the federal program's fifty-employee minimum). And remember: these benefits are completely separate from the potentially more liberal ones your company may offer. So be sure to check with your employer's Human Resources department.

©2007, Armin Brott

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It's clear that most American children suffer too much mother and too little father. - Gloria Steinem

A nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott is the author of Blueprint for Men's Health: A guide to a health lifestyle, The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be; The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year, A Dad's Guide to the Toddler Years, Throwaway Dads, The Single Father: A Dad's Guide to Parenting without a Partner and Father for Life. He has written on parenting and fatherhood for the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of other periodicals. He also hosts “Positive Parenting”, a nationally distributed, weekly talk show, and lives with his family in Oakland, California. Visit Armin at www.mrdad.com

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