What is a Paternity Policy?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

A paternity policy is a company's rules regarding allowed leave for the birth of an employee's child or the adoption or fostering of a non-biological child. Most businesses rely on federal and regional laws to determine a policy. Depending on the laws, paternity leave may be paid, partially paid, or unpaid, and vary in length. Understanding a company's paternity policy may be very important for employees who plan to have children in the future.

Father's sometimes get time off when expecting a baby.
Father's sometimes get time off when expecting a baby.

A paternity policy arises out of the general agreement that new mothers need time to care for their infant and recover from giving birth. It is widely considered unfair that a new parent should be in danger of losing his or her job by taking time off for this important duty, so a paternity policy sets guidelines for how long the leave can last and if the employee will be paid during the absence. Companies that violate applicable paternity laws and threaten employees with retribution or termination for taking earned leave are legally liable and can usually be sued.

The United States is often cited as a place of very minimal paternity allowances. Federal law allows up to 12 weeks of paternity leave, but it is usually unpaid. Furthermore, workers must qualify for this benefit by working for the company for a certain amount of time. Some states, such as California, have state laws that can allow partial pay for six weeks while on family leave, but this type of policy remains the exception rather than the rule.

Russia is known to have what some see as an incredibly generous paternity policy. In addition to 18 months of partially paid maternity leave, the policy includes paid time off for more than two months before birth. Fathers in Russia receive a similar policy, getting up to 18 months to share time with his child. Unpaid paternity and maternity leave is also available for an additional 18 months after paid leave has expired.

Some countries offer generous maternity leave under a paternity policy, but give new fathers a minimal amount of time off. In Denmark, for instance, women are granted 52 weeks of paid leave, with only two weeks reserved for the father. Hungary allows women 24 weeks off at full pay, but only gives new fathers five days off.

How extensive a paternity policy is depends on the priority of child-rearing in a country and the amenability of citizens to higher taxes to pay for social services, such as paid leave. In most of Europe, paternity rights are quite extensive, while both paid and unpaid leave lags behind in other places in the world. A paternity policy may be an increasingly important social issue as it becomes more common for families to have two working parents.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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