For biological and adoptive parents alike, one of the biggest challenges of parenting is figuring out a healthy balance between working and caring for children. While some families are able to have one parent serve as a stay-at-home-caregiver, other families feel that they will be best served by having both parents work.
Regardless, almost all working parents will face instances where they need to stay home from work to help care for their family. Fortunately, recent laws have made it so that nearly all parents are guaranteed time off from work when they need it. If you are a working parent, here is what you need to know about taking parental leave from your place of employment:
Family Medical Leave Act
In 1993, Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which mandates that qualifying businesses must provide employees with up to twelve weeks of leave per year. This act is specifically meant to allow workers to care for new children or ailing family members. In order to qualify for FMLA, you must have held your job for at least a year and have worked 1,250 hours during that time. Furthermore, your employer must have at least fifty employees in order to fall under FMLA jurisdiction. If neither of these conditions are met, then you may need to work with your employer to negotiate leave outside of FMLA.
Although some employers gladly provide paid FMLA leave for their workers, the act does not require it, which means that other employers may only offer unpaid FMLA leave. Fortunately, recent legislation has attempted to remedy this situation. For example, a law passed in December of 2019 ensures that over two million federal workers are granted twelve weeks of paid parental leave per year.
Additionally, laws in California, New York, and several other states require most employers to offer set amounts of paid leave. Depending on where you live and what business you work for, you may be able to take paid time off to care for your family.
Communicating with Your Employer
Ultimately, you will need to communicate with your employer to determine how much leave — both paid and unpaid — you are able to take. Around 90% of employees in the United States are eligible for FMLA, so at the very least, you will likely be eligible for at least twelve weeks of unpaid leave. However, if you fall within the 10% of Americans who are not covered by FMLA, you will need to negotiate your leave directly with your company.
When going through this process, you should schedule your time off as soon as you know you need it. Not only will this grant you plenty of room to fill out any necessary forms for FMLA or paid leave, but it will also act as a show of good faith to your employer, which will encourage them to be more generous in granting you leave. Above all, being clear and open about your needs will help make the process smooth for you, your employer, and everyone else involved.