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What to Know About Short-term Disability Paternity Leave

Feb 01, 2021 3 Min Read Susan Johnston Taylor

Key Takeaways

  • Ask HR about your company's paternity leave policies.
  • Get disability insurance and life insurance policies if you can.
  • Pay down high-interest debt and set aside extra cash before the baby arrives.


As you prepare to welcome a new addition to your family, you'll likely want to take some time off from work to care for your new bundle of joy and adjust to fatherhood.

Expectant mothers can use short-term disability for maternity leave. Expectant fathers do not have the same option of using disability to take time off following the birth of a child. But there may be other resources available to help. In planning a paternity leave, it's smart to research all your options and consider budgeting tools that can help you ease the transition into fatherhood.

Here are some facts for new and expectant fathers to know as they're planning their paternity leave.


How do paid parental leave policies work?

Not all employers offer paid paternity leave, but the number of companies that do is increasing. 29% of the employers surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2018 offered paternity leave, compared to just 21% in 2016. Some employers allow leave for adoption, too. There is no federal rule on parental leave, but a few states require employers of a certain size to provide it. This may be paid or unpaid time depending on your state.

To find out the paternity leave policy at your company, talk to your employer's human resources department. If your company doesn't provide paternity leave, you may need to save up vacation time or sick leave in order to take some time off. Vacation days can typically be used for any purpose with approval from your manager, but company policies on sick days may vary. Be sure to talk to your HR manager about your options.

You may also want to talk to coworkers who've recently taken paternity leave to discuss how they navigated company policies and transitioned back to work. If you're in a management role, it may be especially important for you to take paternity leave so other employees know it's acceptable to do so.



What is FMLA?

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles certain employees to take 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period for family or medical reasons. This includes caring for a child within one year of birth, or caring for child or spouse with a serious medical condition. During FMLA leave, the employee's health insurance continues as if the employee had not taken any leave, and the employee is entitled to return to their same job or equivalent when this time is up.

However, not everyone is entitled to protected leave under FMLA. If you're a freelancer or contractor, if you work for a company with 50 or fewer employees or if you have worked for the company for less than a year, you may be out of luck when it comes to FMLA.


Does short-term disability cover paternity leave?

Even though men are not eligible to take short-term disability following the birth of a child, it's still a good idea for working parents to get disability insurance to provide for their family. If either parent is unable to work due to a short-term disability, the policy would replace a portion of their income for a certain time period.

Life insurance is another smart move for parents. If something happens to one parent, the surviving spouse and children would get a lump sum to replace the deceased parent's income. Even stay-at-home parents need life insurance, because the surviving parent would likely need to hire a housekeeper, nanny or others to help keep the household running smoothly. Some employers offer short- or long-term disability coverage as well as life insurance to their employees. You may also be able to purchase your own policy. While dads haven't traditionally taken much time off work to welcome a new baby, policies and expectations are evolving.


What you can do next

If you're planning to take unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of a child (or even if you're taking paid leave), you'll probably want to sock away extra money to offset lost wages and cover baby-related expenses. Many expectant parents also choose to pay down high-interest debt before the baby arrives, if possible.



Susan Johnston Taylor has written about personal finance and business for The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, Fast Company and U.S. News & World Report.


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