Expecting fathers here in Wisconsin may want to think about moving abroad. This week, Finland enacted a new law that allows new fathers to take 54 days of paid leave following the birth of a child. Of course, Finland is not the only place to find mandatory paid paternity leave; there are countries all over the world where this is the norm. For example, in Sweden fathers receive 480 days of paid paternity leave. Of course, that is nowhere near the case here in the U.S. where many argue that our family leave laws are actually biased against fathers.
Under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, many employers must give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during the year for the birth or adoption of a child. While the law does not overtly favor women taking maternity leave over men taking paternity leave, it does tend to have this result. This is because, often, mothers opt to take an FMLA leave because they are the parent giving birth and feeding the child. Fathers could take FMLA leaves as well, however this is difficult for most families as the household income is already being drastically reduced by the mother's unpaid leave.
Additionally, while FMLA leaves are job-protected, many men may be concerned that taking paternity leave could negatively affect their careers, as this is not a common thing to do in many workplaces.
A Huffington Post article on the subject did find that Wisconsin's leave laws are less biased than other states. Wisconsin came in ninth place in a list of the top states for new dads. The higher ranking was earned because of the Wisconsin FMLA that provides leave to workers who have less time on the job than what is required by the federal FMLA.
While maternity and paternity leave rights in the U.S. are more limited than in much of the world, they do exist and it is important to protect them. In order to take advantage of these rights, it is important to understand the FMLA and the W-FMLA. Those who feel like their employer is dissuading them from taking an FMLA leave, or discriminating against them, or wrongly denying leave, may be wise to speak to an employment law attorney.
Source: Huffington Post, "Paid Family Leave: Can We Change The Maternity And Paternity Leave Debates to Include Everyone?" Lisa Belkin, Jan. 4, 2013
- To learn more about your FMLA rights in Wisconsin, visit our Milwaukee employment law firm's Wisconsin FMLA page.