If you’re looking forward to expanding your family and adding a newborn into your life, or you’re concerned about the rules that your workplace needs to follow, then you might be wondering: can parents take parental leave at the same time?
If both maternal and paternal leave is offered by an employer, then both parents might be able to take their leave at the same time. There is no federal law that requires companies to offer this kind of leave in the United States, however, so it is up to the discretion of the employer themselves.
Read ahead to find out what this actually means and the options you might have if you are bringing a new child into the world.
What Are The Different Parental Leave Options?
Parental leave is a period of time that a new parent can take off from work without negatively impacting their position with their employer, but it does come in more than one form. The legal options for parental leave are determined by the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
In the United States, mothers of newborn or newly adopted children must be able to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year if they work at a company with 50 employees or more. However, there is no mandated paternal leave in the country, so it’s up to each employer to determine whether both parents can take leave at the same time.
Generally speaking, though, the different options that you have might include paid leave, unpaid leave, maternal leave, paternal leave, and shared leave.
- Maternal Leave. Otherwise known as maternity leave, this is time off for new mothers.
- Paternal Leave. Sometimes called paternity leave, time off for new fathers is not a required offering for companies in the US.
- Shared Leave. Some countries or companies offer shared parental leave options, where both parents can split a certain amount of leave and pay between them. This is not a legally required offering in the US.
- Unpaid Leave. In the US, only unpaid maternity leave is actually mandated by the federal government.
- Paid Leave. While it is not required that paid leave is offered by all employers, there are a number of federal and state laws and services that you may be able to use in order to obtain paid leave.
What that all means is that there are options that may be available for both parents to take leave at the same time, but it is very rare in the United States.
Do Fathers Get Paternity Leave In The United States?
Although there is no overall federal mandate that offers paternal leave in the US, it is still an option for some fathers. Unfortunately, very few have the choice to take it and, when they do, the time offered is usually very minimal indeed.
According to recent research by Zippia, less than half of all US companies offer any paternity leave at all. The average amount of time that fathers are able to take off work to be with their new children is just one week, compared to an average of more than six weeks of paid leave for countries in the European Union.
When it comes to shared leave options, only 20% of all employees can access family leave of any kind, and 11% of workers can’t even take unpaid leave. Ultimately, more than 3 out of every 4 fathers will be back at work within a week of welcoming a new child into the family.
How Long Does Parental Leave Last?
When it comes to maternity leave, there are slightly more options available, and more women are able to take some form of leave than men. Even so, the length of time away from work and the options for any kind of pay are incredibly limited.
Legally, new mothers in the US can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to spend time with their newborn or newly adopted children. To do so, however, you still need to qualify – and many employees do not.
Zippia’s research into maternity leave shows that only a quarter of all women in the US take more than nine weeks of leave, whether that is unpaid or paid. Just over half take even 5 weeks or more.
A third of all US women don’t take any maternity leave at all, which affects lower-income women at a much higher rate. It’s estimated that families in the US lose around $22.5 billion a year in wages due to the lack of paid maternity leave options.
Can An Employer Refuse Parental Leave?
According to the FMLA, even taking your mandated 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave is far from guaranteed. FMLA leave is a legal requirement that cannot be refused, but mothers may not qualify – in which case it cannot be claimed. There are a number of strict stipulations that allow you to receive protection. Employees have to:
- Be working for a covered employer
- Have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the 12 months before leave starts
- Work at a location with 50 or more employees located within 75 miles
- Have worked for the same employer for at least 12 months
The 12 months of work do not need to be consecutive to qualify, and there are some exceptions to these requirements (such as special rules for hours of service that apply to the crew of airline flights).
What Options Do You Have For Shared Parental Leave?
Ultimately, you will need to work within your employer’s leave of absence policy if you want to be able to take leave at the same time.
There are usually a number of different options available for taking leave outside of FMLA leave that you may be able to take advantage of. You may also be able to rely on state-specific laws and services that can offer greater protections when it comes to taking a leave of absence.
Summary: Can Parents Take Parental Leave At The Same Time?
So, can parents take parental leave at the same time? Well, it all depends on your employer’s leave of absence policy. The federal government does not mandate any amount of leave at all, paid or unpaid, for new fathers – and mothers are only able to claim up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave anyway.
There may be some other options available to you, depending on state laws and services, but there are no guarantees.