How to Flex Your Paternity Leave Under FMLA and Still Keep Your Boss Happy
First, the labels. Maybe you’re shying away from calling it “paternity leave” for fear you’ll be slapped with a label of your own: “uncommitted,” “not serious about career,” or some other mistaken notion.
Second, the typical game plan. Many new fathers use vacation and/or sick days – but not “paternity leave” – to take about a week off to be (and help) with their newborn. That’s it.
But you’re determined to spend more time with your baby and thus willing to bend, break, or otherwise challenge a real or perceived company culture mold. You plan to take paternity leave—paid or unpaid—and then some.
Good for you! And, if that’s the case, here’s a creative way to use the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to flex your leave into a part-time schedule over several weeks or months.
Use FMLA to Take Intermittent Leave
In the little-publicized intermittent leave and reduced schedule leave provisions of the Family & Medical Leave Act, you may arrange to work a temporary part-time schedule after your baby arrives.
Keep in mind that the 12 weeks of leave allowed under FMLA are equal to 480 hours. You can use those leave hours to devise a temporary part-time schedule.
In other words, you may be able to arrange a three- or four-day workweek schedule once your paid time off (if any) is over.
A three-day workweek may be feasible for the first week or two after your return to work. Beyond that, proposing a four-day workweek is more practical from both a financial and workload standpoint.
So, while you may be unable to financially and practically afford the 12 weeks of unpaid leave allowed by law, by devising a temporary parttime arrangement, you can have more time at home with your baby each week for up to several months while retaining most of your income.
Taking those hours off as family leave under FMLA, your job remains protected by law.
Does this sound too good to be true? Well, be aware that you must first get your employer’s permission if medical necessity is not a factor.
Quoting from the U.S. Department of Labor at http://www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/fmla/er3.asp: “In order to take leave intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule after the birth of a child or the placement of a child for adoption or foster care, the employee must have the employer’s agreement.”
Use a Proposal to Get the Boss’s Agreement
How do you get your employer’s agreement? The time-proven way to get approval of a flexible work arrangement is to present a professionally crafted, persuasive proposal to your immediate boss. The proposal must address not only your scheduling needs, but also your employer’s bottom-line interests.
In presenting your proposal, be sure to position the phase-back arrangement in a positive light. For example, in discussing your paternity leave plans with your boss, you might say:
“You know, there’s no way I can take the 12-week, job-protected family leave I’m allowed under FMLA. It’s just not practical for the office or my family. What I’m proposing to do instead is to structure my leave time so that it’ll have minimal impact on office operations. We’ve already discussed how my work will be managed during my one-week absence right after the baby is born; now here’s the temporary reduced schedule I’ve drawn up and an outline of how my job responsibilities will be managed.“
Not Covered by FMLA?
If your employer is exempt from FMLA, there are other resources available to help you develop a custom plan and proposal for a short-term reduced workweek anyway. Another idea would be to propose a temporary telecommuting or compressed workweek arrangement to allow you more time at home without reducing your fulltime status. The added advantage to this is that the temporary arrangement serves as a trial period and proving ground should you want to pitch an ongoing arrangement.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Fatherhood Initiative.
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