Paternity leave is a form of parental leave offered to the father of a new child so that he can bond with the child and participate in childcare tasks. As a general rule, in regions where this leave is governed or mandated by law, the leave is available for births and adoptions, reflecting the importance of adopting a new member of the family. Laws about paternity leave and parental leave in general vary around the world, with some nations having very generous terms such as up to two years of paid leave for new parents, while others have fewer measures in place to promote and protect parental leave.
There are a number of reasons to take paternity leave. From a purely practical point of view, integrating a new infant or child into a household is a lot of work, especially for new parents, and having a parent at home at all times may be necessary in the first few weeks. Scheduling this leave to coincide with maternity leave also allows a father to help out in the days and weeks following a birth, especially if the birth was difficult.
Emotionally, paternity leave can also be very important. New parents usually want to spend time getting to know their child, and establishing a bond with him or her. It can be stressful and unpleasant to be trapped at work all day while a new child is making developmental leaps and bounds at home. New fathers may also feel emotionally stressed by their inability to help out at home.
This type of leave can be scheduled both before and after a birth, for varying amounts of time. In some nations, parents are specifically entitled to parental leave, and they cannot be penalized in any way for requesting leave in a timely fashion. Since birth can be unpredictable, parents usually try to schedule leave with some wiggle room so that they will be home at the right time. In some regions, people are entitled to full or partial pay during their parental leave, and benefits such as health care continue through the leave.
In areas where paternity leave is not guaranteed by law, some proactive employers provide specific measures for leave, reflecting the fact that parenting is important to many people. In other instances, an employee may need to negotiate with an employer to obtain leave to care for a new child, and the employee may be forced to take a limited time off with no pay. Other employers may be willing to carry over vacation and sick days to accommodate a new father who wants to spend some time at home.
Expecting fathers should definitely do their research ahead of time, and they should coordinate leave requests with their partners, discussing pros and cons of taking leave at the same time, or staggering leave to keep a parent at home with the child for as long as possible. It is also a good idea to talk to an employer as soon as possible about a pregnancy and pending request for paternity leave, so that arrangements can be made.