Thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act, your work life doesn't have to get in the way of your home life — especially if that home includes a new baby. Under the FMLA, men can take time off work after the birth of a child just like women can. However, the FMLA doesn't cover everyone, and in some situations, your employer doesn't have to hold your job for you while you're gone.
Leave of Absence
If you're covered by the FMLA, you're entitled to a 12-week leave of absence from work after the birth of a child. Your job is protected during this time frame, so your employer normally can't fire you and replace you for this leave of absence. You can take the 12 weeks in one solid block or in increments over the course of the child's first year. If you work at the same firm as your spouse, the company may only allow the two of you to miss a combined 12 weeks of work. If you work for different firms, you can, in theory, both take off the full 12 weeks.
The FMLA must be earned through work service time. You have to be on the job for at least 12 months, and you must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year leading up to the leave of absence. The FMLA only applies to companies that employ at least 50 workers within a 75-mile radius. So, if you work for a small business, you may not be able to take time off for the baby regardless of your work hours.
If you and your spouse both take time off, you might find yourselves strapped for cash. That's because your employer does not have to pay you during an FMLA absence. Some cushion the blow a bit by requiring employees to use any available sick, personal or vacation days during the absence. This means you'll still have money coming in, but you won't have any paid days left to take off during the rest of the year. Some couples get around this problem by splitting child care responsibilities so each spouse takes a certain amount of leave each week rather than taking it all in one continuous block.
When you return to work, the FMLA rules dictate you either resume your regular duties or get an equivalent job with similar responsibilities. However, the FMLA has a special provision when it comes to key employees. If your absence can cause serious economic injury to your employer, the employer is within his rights to give that important job to someone else. Your employer must let you know you're a key employee in writing before you go on leave. It's then up to you to decide if you can afford to take the leave since there's no guarantee you'll get your job back.
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