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What is Statutory Paternity Leave?

By Christy Bieber
Updated May 17, 2024
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Statutory paternity leave refers to a right to paternity leave guaranteed under federal or state legislation. Paternity leave refers to the right to take time off of work when a child is born or adopted. Statutory law refers to written, codified law, as opposed to case law in common law systems.

Some form of paid statutory paternity leave exists in many countries and jurisdictions. In most of these countries, the right to the leave was granted by the legislature, not by judge-made law. For this reason, the law is referred to as statutory law and the laws are published in the official law books or code books of the country.

For example, in Argentina, a new father is entitled to take two days of paid paternity leave. In the Bahamas, an individual is entitled to take up to one week of any type of family-related leave, which can be used for paternity leave. In Brazil, five days of paid paternity leave are available; in Canada two weeks of unpaid leave is standard in most provinces; in Chile, one day of paid paternity leave is permitted; in Columbia, four to eight days; in Guatemala, two days at the birth of a child; in Paraguay, two days; and in Uruguay, three days only for civil servants.

In the United States, no paid statutory paternity leave is required by employers. Instead, fathers-to-be are permitted to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA is a federal law passed in 1993.

Statutory paternity leave exists to protect a father's right to be home with his infant child for a set period of time. During this time, the father's job is protected, even if the leave is unpaid. For example, under FMLA, the individual must be able to return to his job at the end of his leave and must suffer no adverse implications to his career as a result of taking the leave.

The rules for paternity leave and the requirements for taking such leave differ by state as well. In most countries that offer statutory paternity leave, the leave is granted to fathers whose wives have had babies, and also to fathers who have adopted infant children. The regulations as far as whether the baby is born to a wife differ depending on the country.

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Discussion Comments
By Feryll — On Dec 06, 2014

@mobilian33 - You have to remember that some families don't have mothers. What I mean is that a gay male couple could adopt a child. In this case, one of the fathers would definitely benefit from some type of paternity leave law. There are many nontraditional families today and our laws need to reflect this change.

By Sporkasia — On Dec 05, 2014

@Animandel - I agree. I have a friend who had a baby. Like most women, she wanted to stay home with the baby, and she did at first. Then she realized that she missed work and her salary was much greater than her husbands, so they also missed the income.

Her husband decided to take the paternity leave under the paternity law and stay at home. Ten years later, he is now a stay-at-home dad and my friend continues to have a very successful career that pays the bills and then some.

By Animandel — On Dec 04, 2014

@mobilian33 - I agree that the idea of the man being the bread winner of the family has served many families well over the years, but this has changed for many if not most families in today's world. Believe it or not, there are some women who earn more money than their husbands or partners.

When a women makes more money and a new baby arrives, having the father take paternity leave may make more financial sense than having the mother take maternity leave unpaid.

By mobilian33 — On Dec 04, 2014

Why does a father need to take unpaid or paid paternity leave anyway? I don't understand the need for paternity leave rights. If the mother is taking maternity leave then that is the most that should be needed. The father needs to be out earning money to take care of his family. This is what being a father means.

Being a father doesn't mean you need to stay home and bond with the baby and get to know the child. Being a father means you need to make sure the baby is fed, clothed, and that he or she has a place to live.

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