Global HR 10 min

Paternity leave: A global guide to making it work

Written by Barbara Matthews
June 24, 2024
Barbara Matthews


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Like mothers, fathers also need time away from work to bond with their children. Offering parental leave is a good opportunity to create a more inclusive and supportive workplace culture. 

But how can your business develop an inclusive paternity leave policy — especially if you have a global team?

This article guides you through paternity leave laws around the world. We'll also take a look at how you can support new fathers in their professional and personal roles with paternity leave.

What is paternity leave?

Paternity leave is a dedicated period of leave granted to fathers following the birth or adoption of a child. It’s an important time off work, as it allows fathers to bond with their children and provide support for their partners in the early stages of childcare.

By offering paternity leave, businesses demonstrate a commitment to family-friendly workplace policies and the overall well-being of their employees. 

Benefits of paternity leave for families

A father who can take time off work to care for and bond with their new child helps their family in the following ways:

Strengthens family bonding 

Only 32% of eligible fathers take paternity leave in the UK. Even when offered, working fathers often hesitate to take full advantage. This low figure underscores the need for societal change and supportive workplace policies. Normalizing paternity leaves encourages fathers to spend important moments with their child.

only 32% of fathers take paternity leave

Improves work-life balance

Taking time off for childcare helps balance the demands of work and home. Paternity leave can significantly reduce the stress that fathers and their partners or loved ones can face. This time away from work allows families to adjust to their new dynamics and childcare duties together.

Promotes gender equality

 Offering paternity leave challenges traditional gender roles by encouraging shared parenting responsibilities. It not only supports mothers in their career aspirations but also empowers fathers to actively participate in early child-rearing.

Benefits of paternity leave for businesses 

For businesses, offering paternity leave has several strategic advantages:

Attract and keep top talent 

Businesses that offer paternity leave are more likely to attract and retain employees who value family-friendly workplace policies. In fact, 49% of employees consider a company’s paid leave policy for new parents when applying for a job.

Foster a positive workplace culture

Paternity leave policies show a company’s commitment to employee well-being. It contributes to a more inclusive and healthy work environment, encouraging a culture that respects and values family time and personal responsibilities. This not only improves employee morale but also fosters understanding and mutual support among colleagues.

Boost productivity and engagement

Employees returning from paternity leave often show higher levels of productivity and engagement than they did prior to the leave. Refreshed and motivated by their time with family, they can bring new perspectives and renewed energy to their roles.

What is FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a key federal law in the US that provides eligible employees with unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons, such as paternity leave.

The FMLA protects the employee’s job, making sure that they are reinstated to the same or an equivalent position upon their return. Additionally, it mandates that employers must maintain the employee’s health insurance under the same conditions as if the individual had not taken leave.

Who is eligible for paternity leave?

The FMLA allows employees in public agencies, schools, and private companies with at least 50 employees to take paternity leave. This means that both mothers and fathers can take time off from work after having a baby. 

An employee is also required to have been employed for at least 12 months and have completed a minimum of 1,250 hours of service during the 12 months preceding the leave to be qualified.

FMLA paternity leave eligibility checklist

How long is paternity leave? 

Federal employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth and care of a newborn child. Employees are generally required to give 30-day advance notice when the leave is foreseeable so that their employer can adequately plan for the departure and minimize the disruption to business operations.

Do I need to provide paternity leave?

If your business falls under the categories specified by FMLA, providing paternity leave is a requirement. While federal law primarily mandates unpaid leave, state-specific laws can offer more substantial benefits. Understanding the laws of your business location is essential, as they can sometimes provide greater benefits than the federal FMLA.

Only 27% of all private industry workers in the US have access to paid family leave. While some businesses are not legally required to offer paternity leave, many choose to do so as part of their benefits package.

Paternity leave for non-traditional family structures

Those in the LGBTQIA+ community often face unique challenges regarding parental leave. For instance, 43% of LGBTQIA+ individuals are hesitant to take full parental leave — mainly due to stigma — compared to just 23% of individuals in other groups.

Employers need to ensure their paternity leave policies are inclusive and applicable to adoptive parents, same-sex couples, and other non-traditional families. Having an inclusive policy not only positions the company as an ally but also respects diverse family dynamics.

a same-sex couple holding their baby

Businesses not covered by state laws or the FMLA 

For small businesses not covered by FMLA or state-specific laws, offering paternity leave is often a choice made to enhance their employee offerings and attract talent. 

Because it’s not mandated, companies can structure paternity leave in flexible ways. For example, you can offer unpaid leave, accepting accrued vacation or sick leave, or creating a custom leave policy that is mutually beneficial. This flexibility allows smaller companies to tailor their policies according to their capabilities and their employees’ specific needs. 

State paternity leave laws in the US

Paternity leave laws in the US vary significantly from state to state. While the federal FMLA provides a baseline, several states have enacted laws with additional benefits.


California takes a progressive stance on parental leave, offering eligible employees 60 to 70% of their salary for up to eight weeks through the Paid Family Leave (PFL) program. This benefit is available so that new parents and foster parents can bond with their new child. 

New York

New York’s Paid Family Leave program grants eligible employees up to 12 weeks of paid leave at 67% of their average weekly wage. Parents are entitled to take paid, job-protected leave to bond with their newborn within the first 12 months of the child’s birth.

New Jersey

New Jersey provides up to 12 weeks of paid paternity leave under its Family Leave Insurance program. Employees must earn a weekly average of 240 USD or more to be eligible.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island offers Temporary Caregiver Insurance, which provides four weeks of paid leave for new parents, including fathers. Parents can receive 60% of their wages.


Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program offers new parents up to 12 weeks of paid leave. The benefit amount is based on a percentage of the employee’s wages and the state’s average weekly wage.


Massachusetts provides up to 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents, including job protection and continuation of health benefits. Eligibility requirements state that employees must have worked for 15 weeks or more and have earned at least 5,400 USD in the 12 months preceding the leave.


Connecticut’s CT Paid Leave allows up to 12 weeks of paid leave in a 12-month period for new parents. If an employee’s weekly pay is equal to or less than 40 times the Connecticut minimum wage, they’ll receive a benefit rate of 95% of their average weekly pay. For those who earn above the threshold, the rate is 95% of the Connecticut minimum wage multiplied by 40.


Oregon’s Paid Leave program provides up to 12 weeks of paid leave in a 52-week period, with an additional two weeks for pregnancy complications. It protects an employee’s job if they’ve worked for one employer for at least 90 consecutive days.


Colorado’s FAMLI coverage offers up to 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents, plus an additional four weeks for pregnancy or childbirth complications. All Colorado employers are automatically enrolled in the state plan for FAMLI coverage.

An increasing number of states are moving toward offering paid family leave, including paternity leave. The FAMILY Act, a federal legislation aimed at providing workers with a more comprehensive leave program, reflects an increasing acknowledgment of the importance of family support in the workforce.

Paternity leave laws in other countries

Cultural norms and values shape paternity leave around the globe. Let’s explore how different countries handle paternity leave policies.


Canada offers up to 40 weeks of standard parental benefits, shared between parents, with a benefit rate of 55%. Alternatively, employees can choose extended parental benefits, which provide up to 69 weeks at a 33% rate.


Sweden has a very generous parental leave policy, offering 480 days of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. Each parent is entitled to 240 days, with 90 of these days reserved exclusively for each parent if the child was born in 2016 or later.


Germany has a flexible approach to paternity leave, allowing parents to take unpaid leave until the child reaches three years old. Up to 12 months of this leave can be transferred to a period between the child’s 3rd and 8th birthdays. Parental leave in Germany can be divided between the parents or taken entirely by one caretaker.


Under Spain’s paternity leave policy, fathers are entitled to 16 weeks of paid leave — the same duration as mothers. The leave includes six compulsory weeks post-birth, and the remaining 10 can be used continuously or intermittently until the child is 12 months old. Fathers can ask for extensions for multiple births or if the child is disabled. Social Security pays the full amount for the leave.


Japan provides four weeks of Childcare at Birth Leave within eight weeks of childbirth, with 67% salary benefits capped at 15,190 yen per day. Afterward, childcare leave is available until the child’s first birthday, providing 67% of the person’s salary for the first 180 days and 50% after. 

Despite these generous provisions, cultural and corporate norms often discourage Japanese workers from taking full advantage of them.

South Korea 

In an effort to boost its fertility rates, South Korea recently announced a policy change to allow parental leave for 18 months, an extension from the previous one-year limit. This is the longest parental leave duration in the world. It is an unpaid extended leave and is currently only available to full-time, dual-income, heterosexual couples. 

Paternity leave for remote workers

Every country has a different paternity leave policy for remote employees based on local laws and company policies. If you have a distributed team, you might struggle maintaining consistent and fair leave policies for employees in different locations.

Businesses that operate remotely across different countries should strive to implement a parental leave policy that accommodates disparities in global standards. By providing a policy that works for everyone, you ensure that all your employees can take time off to care for their children, no matter where they work.

5 ways businesses can support an employee taking paternity leave

As an employer, you can support your employees through their fatherhood journeys in several ways. 

1. Plan and communicate pre-leave

Before an employee goes on paternity leave, have a clear plan in place. Discuss workload management, set up a thorough handover process, and make sure the individual is fully aware of their rights and the resources available to them.

2. Offer flexible return-to-work options

When employees return to the workforce, they often need time to adjust and reintegrate. Offering adaptable work arrangements, such as part-time work or flexible hours, can help them transition back to work more smoothly.

3. Provide resources and support 

Make sure your employees can access both personal and professional resources during their paternity leave. These can include remote wellness programs or employee development opportunities. Providing a comprehensive support system can significantly enhance their experience while they’re off work.

4. Check in periodically

Regularly check in with employees both during and after their leave to offer support. Consistent communication can keep them connected and updated on work matters. However, remember to give them space, as this is also a private and personal time.

With Remote, you can manage employee leave, from the minimum required by law to unlimited time off. Remote HR Management helps keep you on top of everyone’s status, so you can periodically check in with your employees on paternity leave.

5. Offer extended paternity leave benefits 

To kick paternity leave up a notch, you can even consider offering extended leave benefits. For example, FMLA can be combined with other company-provided leave policies to extend the employee’s total leave time — though this is subject to your business’s policies, of course. 

With a global HR partner like Remote, you can structure these benefits in a way that’s fair and globally compliant. Craft policies that are effective, relevant, and respectful of different needs.

Enhance your global paternity support with Remote

Remote empowers businesses to support their employees at every stage, from pre-leave planning to the transition back to work. Create a free account now to build a fully supportive and compliant paternity leave program.

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