First, let us wish our fellow blogger, Tom Basta our hearty congratulations on the birth of his twins! They are adorable and likely to keep Tom very busy (and tired) these next few weeks.
Before the twins arrived, Tom and I had some discussions about how much time off he was going to take so that we could plan coverage for his absence. These discussions and a recent webinar on pregnancy accommodation in which I was a co-presenter re-focused me on issues with paternity leave and maternity leave.
The fact is there are still some employers who think that maternity leave should be longer than paternity leave because, well, she was the one busy giving birth. This may be true. However, the fact is that employers need to be careful about such policies as they may be discriminatory against men.
If an employer’s policy is only to provide time for bonding with the baby after the birth, then maternity leave and paternity leave should be offered in equivalent amounts. In that case, there is no reason to distinguish between how much time a mother versus a father may spend bonding with the newborn.
For those employers who think that the mother deserves longer leave because she had to physically give birth and the father did not, such policies may be legal provided they are structured in the correct way. Employers may lawfully give pregnant women longer leave amounts if a portion of the leave is considered disability leave related to actually giving birth and a portion is related to bonding with the newborn. Again, in this case, employers should make sure that the bonding portion of the leave is the same as being offered to fathers.