Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Should Your Company Offer Paternity Leave for Adoption?

Employee benefits in the family leave arena are rapidly evolving. Many employers are now offering paternity leave to allow fathers time to bond with their new children, above and beyond what is required at the state and federal level. Sometimes these apply to adoptions, and sometimes they only apply to birthing fathers. Should your company offer additional paternity leave for adoption? Here are some things to consider in answering that question.

Federal and State Family Leave Acts

Many adoptive fathers aren't aware, but they are entitled to leave under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and any applicable state medical leave acts. Under FMLA, fathers employed at certain companies and agencies are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off, while keeping their job and their health benefits, when a child is adopted. Be sure to know whether your company must offer employees benefits under the Act.

In addition to federal laws, some states offer an additional layer of family medical leave for adoptive fathers. Many states extend the FMLA over 24 months instead of just 12. Others offer FMLA level rights to employees that don't fall under FMLA. And four states offer six weeks of paid family leave for adoptive families: California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. These programs are funded by employee paid payroll taxes and administered through state disability programs, which should help your profitability.

Employer Sponsored Adoption Paternity Leave

Some employers offer paternity leave for adopting parents above and beyond what federal and state laws require. Let's be honest. You want to take good care of your employees, not only because you prefer to be benevolent, but also because you want good employees to stick around. After all, that's great for business!

To help you decide how to strike this difficult balance, look to see what your competitors are doing, as well as other similar employers in your local area. What other choice would your employee have if they didn't like your policy? You don't have to offer the same benefits as large companies like Netflix, which offers unlimited paid family leave up to a year. That could cripple most businesses! But think about this -- at least in an adoption situation, there should be no medical emergencies to handle with respect to birthing, so you've dodged that bullet. But an adoptive family is still a family, so try to be open minded, and find the best policy that works for you and your employees.

If you have questions about your paternity leave, both for adoptive and birthing parents, contact a local employment lawyer. This attorney may also be able to offer advice on what local companies are offering, which may help you find the right balance you are looking for.

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