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Posted by: Maricopa Lawyers on Sep 19, 2016

Having a child should be an all-around beautiful experience, and in many ways, it is. However, with the current state of paternity benefits in Arizona, there is an unfortunate amount of stress that comes along for the ride. Something that should be looked forward to with nothing but excitement turns into a stressful experience, both emotionally and financially.

Current state of AZ benefits

In the state of Arizona, currently, paid paternity benefits are nowhere near where they should be. If you are a government employee or have worked 1250 hours for a company with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius, you can be allowed up to 12 unpaid weeks of leave courtesy of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but if you want to earn salary as well, then prepare to use all your vacation, sick, and personal time.

father-and-child-beachEven those unpaid 12 weeks have some exceptions, too. For example, if you are among the highest paid 10% of your company, it can potentially be shown that your absence would cause financial hardship for the company, and you can be legally replaced while you’re gone, with no guarantee that you will get your position back in the future. If you’re imagining that this would cause people to think twice about going on paternity leave, then you’re right. Your employer would have to give you a “reasonable opportunity” to return to work, but there are no guarantees you would return to the same position unless you got it in writing up-front.

Another exception is that if you and your spouse work for the same company, the 12 weeks of unpaid time off will be split amongst you, forcing new parents to make the decision of 6 short weeks working together, or a new mother going it alone for the majority of the time while the father returns to work.

Proposed changes to AZ paternity law

In the recent past, there have been a few bills that have attempted to increase benefits for new parents, but none have gone through. House Bill 2306 would have created a family leave insurance program, and House Bill 2585 would have given employees one hour of paid sick and safe time for every thirty hours worked, but both were defeated in voting.

A new bill has been proposed for county employees (nothing for the broader public and private sectors yet, though) that would allow up to 6 weeks of paid family leave for both mothers and fathers, and would have other employees or temporary hires pick up the slack. The bill is said to cost an additional $600,000 to $1 million in taxpayer money per year, but most statistics out there show that employees (most notably mothers) are 93% more likely to return to work if they are offered paid leave than those who don’t, so it can certainly be argued that the benefits outweigh the costs.

It’s uncertain whether this bill will be allowed through, but if so, it is fantastic news for county employees, and a step in the right direction for new parents’ rights in Arizona.