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January 5, 2010

Paternity Leave?

I promised C that I would talk with my boss about taking time off after the baby is born (a.k.a. paternity leave). In the US, a dad can take 12 weeks of unpaid leave--and have a job at the same pay when he returns--if that job is the government or is a company with more than 50 employees among some other stipulations. Unfortunately, my company, which has the most employees it's ever had, is over-staffed by 5 people.

This is what has to say:

How and when should I request leave?

...Consider discussing paternity leave with your employer as soon as you're ready to announce the pregnancy — usually after your partner's first trimester... You'll be in a stronger position to negotiate a leave if you approach your boss with a specific plan and allow him or her plenty of time to help you implement it. (If you have trusted co-workers who have been through this before, ask them how they handled their leave and what kind of reaction they got.) Offer your boss solutions rather than problems by having some ideas for how your work can be handled while you're away. Consider asking for leave and getting approval early in the pregnancy even if you're not sure you'll want to or be able to take unpaid leave when the time comes. It's easier to come back early than it is to ask for more time.

What if I don't qualify for leave under FMLA?

If you work only part time or for a small company, you don't qualify for paternity leave under FMLA and your employer may not provide this benefit. If this is the case, it can't hurt to ask your boss for a leave of absence anyway. Many companies may still be willing to negotiate some sort of time off for a valued employee. The earlier you start making a case for yourself as a valuable, hard-working person, the better position you'll be in for bargaining...

If you're still not getting anywhere, make sure you find out whether you're entitled to some kind of leave under your state's laws as these benefits may be more generous than the FMLA. Talking with other new dads about how they managed time away from work might also give you more creative ideas about how to take the time off to bond with your newborn child.

How can I make the most of my time with my family if I can't take unpaid leave?

If you're not able to take paternity leave, here are a few ideas for maximizing your time with your new family:

•  Consider working overtime before your baby comes and exchange it for time off after the birth.
•  On nights when you don't have to work the next day, have your partner wake you up when the baby is finished nursing so you can be the one to rock her back to sleep. Or take turns getting up for feedings.
•  Your child will experience many "firsts" in her first year of life. Whenever these events can be scheduled, do so when you have time off from work.
•  During the first year of your baby's life, look at any activities that take you away from your baby. Consider saying no to some of those events to spend more time with your newborn.

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