PFL in Person: A Dad’s-eye View of Paid Family Leave
April 18, 2017
“Paternity leave” is hardly a household phrase in the United States and chances are you might not even be familiar with it. In a nation without any mandated paid maternity leave, maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that paternity leave might as well be the stuff of urban legends. While the US lags behind 196 other industrialized nations in the effort to bring paternity leave to the mainstream, there are a handful of states which are leading the charge for Paid Family Leave, like New York.
Meet Mark, who at the time of this writing, has just welcomed his second child. A few weeks ago, we sat down with his wife, Becky, about the impact of Paid Family Leave on her experience as a mom, and we wanted to see how Mark’s journey compares.
Paternity Leave without PFL
Both ShelterPoint employees, Mark and Becky, have particularly unique circumstances in that they are covered for the same qualifying event (the birth of their baby) and work for the same company. Prior to the implementation of Paid Family Leave, they would have had 12 weeks of combined FMLA time off in connection with the birth of their baby. So, when their first child was born, Mark took 2 weeks of time off to bond with his growing family and ensure Becky had all the time she needed to recover. After those 2 weeks, even though his infant was still very small, he headed back to his professional obligations.
While for Mark the decision to return to work after 2 weeks was simply due to financial considerations, in many other companies there are additional cultural forces at work that bring new dads quickly back into their job, with paternity leave so far outside the corporate vernacular. Then as now, there seems to be pressure on fathers to stay in the workforce and “not skip a beat” when their children are born. Even women don’t take nearly as much time as they would be entitled to under FMLA or their statutory short-term disability (DBL): FMLA grants 12 weeks of job protection, which however is unpaid, and DBL pays benefits for up to 6 weeks for normal deliveries (or up to 8 weeks for C-sections) – but the average length of pregnancy-related disability claims of ShelterPoint’s insured population is only about four weeks. A major factor for this may be attributed to the fact that New York’s mandatory DBL maximum benefit provides only 50% of salary to a maximum of $170/week.
Paternity Leave with PFL Gives Families Options
As Mark looks ahead to bonding with his second born, he’s grateful for the flexibility PFL affords his family. With the guaranteed paid time off PFL provides, Mark is entitled to take time off to bond with his little one next year. Although his 2018 bonding time off will be paid – or rather partially paid, to be exact – he still has to do his math to figure out how long he can afford to stay out given the maximum benefit.
PFL may help tremendously.
As a family, he and Becky can also plan out how they will each take time - and potentially stagger it in a way that makes the most sense for everyone since they both work for the same company. It also has the added benefit of insulating him from some of the financial pressure to return to work right away, and gives him the empowerment many dads need to embrace their new role as fathers.
It may change the equation for a lot of people.
2017 Dads Qualify for Paid Time Off in 2018
Starting on January 1, 2018 – even though Mark’s son was born in March, 2017 – Mark can take paid time off to bond with his son, as much as 8 weeks at 50% of his average weekly pay capped at 50% of New York’s average weekly wage, which is currently at $1,296 and would therefore provide a maximum of $648/week (this may change on July 1 when the NY Department of Labor performs its annual assessment). Both time off and related payments are slated to increase to a total of 12 weeks off at 67% of the employee’s average weekly wage, capped at 67% of New York’s average weekly wage, by 2021.
So how much paid time off can 2017 dads qualify for in 2018?
The amount of paid time off a 2017 dad can take next year, is determined as follows:
You can take up to 8 weeks from January 1, 2018, until your baby’s 1st birthday. Here are 2 examples:
- Normally, a dad in Mark’s situation would qualify for the full 2018 maximum time since his son was born in March 2017, which is more than 8 weeks into the year.
- If your baby was born early this year, say January 17, for example, you would only be allowed to take paid leave between January 1, 2018, and January 16, 2018.
However, since Mark works at the same company as his wife Becky, there are additional factors that impact his (their) paid leave. Details around family members working for the same employer and taking leave for the same qualifying event are still to be determined.
Enhancing the Family Connection
There’s a reason most other nations have prioritized the importance of bonding for fathers and families. Not only do studies show extended bonding time with newborns benefits children, the positive impacts extend to fathers as well.3 Extended bonding time increases a father's’ confidence with his child(ren) and enhances their connection as a family, providing a lot of physical and psychological benefits that bonding with mom alone can’t bestow.3
For Dads like Mark, it will mean he has the time to spend with both his children now that they have a new family addition. He can take those hours to walk the zoo with his boys and find the very best dinosaur books at the library so dad and both kids feel a renewed attachment as they navigate the new chapter of their family’s journey.
Mark’s Advice for PFL Planning
Doing your research and knowing your own rights when it comes to PFL is a great first step. Mark also recommends avoiding assumptions that your employer knows everything about Paid Family Leave, especially if you work for a small company without a dedicated HR resource.
Whether you’re expecting soon, next year, or just want to learn more about the new benefits of Paid Family Leave, we’ll help you find what you’re looking for. Email us at email@example.com.
1Business Insider; http://www.businessinsider.com/countries-with-best-parental-leave-2016-8/#finland-1
2Actual benefits will depend on final Paid Family Leave regulations and claim details.
3The Nationall; http://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/family/the-importance-of-father-child-bonding
This information is based on the current draft regulations and may change with the release of the final regulations. Got more questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org