Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Handling Paternal Leave

Today's men are more involved than ever in child-rearing. Indeed, few women will accept men who want them to be the sole caretaker for the children. Men also have become more intimately involved with their partners' pregnancies in recent years as well.

It stands to reason, then, that dad would want some time off when the baby arrives. Still, while most companies know that new dads will take off a couple of days, few are reluctant to give them even a week. If you know that you will be taking time off when your baby comes, there are some simple steps you can take.

The first step is to educate yourself. The Family Medical Leave Act permits you to take off time to be with a family member during times of medical need. That means that you have the right to take off up to 12 weeks with your partner and new baby. That does not mean that your company has to pay you, but they cannot demote you or otherwise hold it against you that you are taking off.

Second, let your employer know well in advance. Doing so gives you a couple of benefits. You will not be springing it on her at the last minute. Your company has less to be concerned about if you have made adequate preparations and there will be no harm to your company from your absence. Second, you will be able to find out from human resources exactly what you will need to do in the way of paperwork.

The third step is to prepare your co-workers. If you and Bob have a project deadline that is approaching baby's due date, let Bob know. You need to have contingency plans as well so that you will know what happens if your wife goes into labor at the same time you need to finish something up for a project. Although the pregnancy is intensely personal, you need to let people know what is going on at work. Do not let your co-workers just show up one morning to find that you are not there for several weeks.

Take care of as many tasks as you can before you leave. If you can delegate, do it. If there are problems you think could arise, let someone know what to do. Also, decide if it is okay to contact you while you are away. Give your number and instructions to only one or two people who can contact you in case something absolutely cannot wait. Set up email forwarding and an automatic response so that people know not to expect return emails. Change your voicemail to let people know the same thing. You will not be returning any calls. Then do not return any. Do not call in. If you do, you will find that people will expect it.

Now, you can sit back and enjoy your new baby. Take solace in this time as it will be one for beautiful memories later. And know that you are a liberated man - one who is brave enough to put his love for his family before work.

by Julia Mercer

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