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What is parental leave?

Who can take parental leave?

Parental leave laws

Parental leave vs. maternity/paternity leave

What are the different types of parental leave?

What is the duration of parental leave?

What is parental leave

Parental leave is an employee benefit that grants expectant mothers and fathers time off work to care for a new child. Parental leave provides job protection for employees following a birth or adoption, allowing them to care for their family. 

Parental leave policies may vary from one country to another and from one company to another. 

What is parental leave?

Employers offer parental leave when a mother and/or father welcomes a new child into the home, either from the natural birthing process or adoption. The temporary absence from work can be with or without pay, and the length of leave may range from a few weeks to several months.

There are many benefits to offering parental leave for the business, individual, and society as a whole. Consider the following parental leave benefits:

  • Allow parents to bond with their new child
  • Increase gender equality by allowing mothers to continue working while fathers participate in childcare duties
  • Allow parents to adjust to parenthood, including sleep changes and hormonal shiftsPaid parental leave can reduce financial stress
  • Ensure that mothers have a helping hand when caring for their new baby
  • Improved mental health benefits for parents 
  • Strengthening partnerships between parents
  • Better productivity and morale when returning to work
  • Employee retention as parental leave serves as a perk
  • Reduced requests for sick leave as parents can stay at home to care for their children

While offering unpaid parental leave is progressive, the option is sometimes declined as the birth of a child is expensive, and new parents prefer to earn money and support their families.

Who can take parental leave?

Generally, parental leave can be taken after an employee gives birth, when an employee’s spouse gives birth, or if an employee adopts a child under a specified age.

When applying for parental leave for an adopted child, a company may also offer pre-adoption leave to secure the placement of a child for adoptive parents. 

Eligibility for parental leave should be incorporated into the company leave policy. In most instances, eligible employees are considered along the following factors:

  • The amount of time that an employee has worked for the employer
  • Whether the employee works in a full-time or part-time capacity
  • Employee’s financial contributions to specific state funds such as healthcare
  • The number of employees in the organization
  • Proof of pregnancy or adoption
  • Notice period before putting in leave requests

Parental leave laws

Laws surrounding paternal leave may differ from one jurisdiction to another.

For example, some countries specify that parental leave is a nontransferable right and that each parent is entitled to a specified amount of leave whether they are the caregiver or not. Other countries allow one parent to transfer their allocated period of paternal leave to another.

In some countries, parental leave supplements paternity leave and maternity leave, while in other countries, it replaces these options.

In the United States, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is the closest law regarding parental leave and is regulated by US labor law and state law. The federal government law stipulates that certain employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. 

When hiring from a global talent pool, it’s important to consider the regulations of various countries to maintain a competitive edge and remain compliant.

Parental leave vs. maternity/paternity leave

Parental leave differs slightly from other types of leave offered by human resources, specifically maternity leave and paternity leave. 

Parental leave is available for either (and both) parents. Shared parental leave allows mothers to end maternity leave earlier so that the alternate carer may take over the care. The arrangement allows a more flexible arrangement during the first 12-month period of having a child.

Maternity leave is for biological mothers and is exercised before and after giving birth h. New mothers are given time off work to recover from the birthing process and bond with their children. 

Paternity leave is for biological fathers and offered after the birth of a child. The intention is to care for the child and allow the father to bond with his child.

In both instances, maternity and paternity leave may be offered for adoptive and biological children.

What are the different types of parental leave?

Parental leave can be broken down into two different types of leave, namely paid leave and unpaid leave.

Unpaid leave

Unless the law stipulates that new parents are entitled to paid leave, then parental leave is usually unpaid. Although the individual doesn’t earn a wage while on parental leave, their job is held while they take a leave of absence.

As the world becomes more progressive, more organizations around the world offer unpaid parental leave, hoping to attract top talent. However, many employees turn the offer down in order to work and provide income for the household.

Paid leave

Paid parental leave is a requirement in some countries. In other countries, a company may offer a paid parental leave program for a predetermined period, even if not stipulated by law.

The amount of money earned during the leave of absence may be guided by state regulations. For example, Australia pays parental leave for up to 18 weeks while an employee cares for a new child. During this time, an employee’s parental leave pay is based on the weekly rate of the national minimum wage.

In the United States, federal employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave in connection with the birth of a child or placement of a foster child.

What is the duration of parental leave?

The period of parental leave depends on the policy that governs the period of time a new parent can take to take care of their newborn child. 

For example, in the United States, eligible employees benefit from 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave, covered by the FMLA. In the UK parents can share up to 50 weeks' parental leave and up to 37 weeks' pay. In Australia, employees are eligible for up to 18 weeks of parental leave with pay.

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