Does My Small Business Have to Offer Paternity Leave?

Small businesses have a lot of regulations and red tape to deal with. Some of them seem overly constricting to small business owners who count on their employees being available to do the jobs you’ve hired them to do. We all know how exciting it is to bring a new baby home. It would be great if all businesses could afford to offer paid maternity and paternity leave to all employees at this exciting time, but that isn’t always practical from a business viewpoint. Nor is it always required. But, before you deny these claims, you need to know the law of the land in your state as well as from the federal government.


What does the Federal Government Have to Say about Paternity Leave?


You’ve probably heard about the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by now. If your small business employs 50 or more people within a 75-mile radius, then people employed with your company for more than a year who worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the previous year may take as many as 12 weeks of unpaid leave for paternity – provided they are taken in the child’s first year in the home.


FMLA goes on to clarify that paternity leave applies to more than the birth of a newborn child. It also covers adopted and fostered children as well as children who have serious health conditions. According to, employers that offer paid maternity leave for mothers must also offer the same benefits to fathers.


Be aware that some states actually require up to six weeks of paid paternity leave. Most states require only a percentage of traditional wages for payment during the first six weeks of paternity leave.


Things to Consider as a Small Business Owner


While you must offer paternity leave to qualifying employees if your business meets FMLA requirements, only 22 percent of new fathers take a full twelve weeks off work at this time. The primary reason is that the time off is unpaid and most families bringing a new baby home cannot afford both new parents to take that much time off work, let alone one parent.


According to, there are exceptions to the 12-week rule for paternity leave.  Employers may deny leave if the employee’s salary is in the top ten percent in the company and you can show that their absence would do substantial economic harm to your business. Also, if both the husband and the wife work for your business, you’re only required to offer a combined 12 weeks of leave between the two of them according to FMLA. However, your state may have different requirements you must abide by in these situation.


Other countries around the world require a significant amount of paid paternity leave for new fathers. The United States leaves it primarily up to businesses whether they offer paid leave for paternity with a few states placing requirements on businesses operating there to offer more. As a small business owner, this is definitely something you should consider when deciding where your business will operate.

Lastly, be sure to be protected with employment practices liability insurance coverage (EPLI) in the event that a past or current employee files a lawsuit or claim against you.