The difference between maternity and paternity leave is usually simple. Maternity leave is typically for women who are unable to work because they are pregnant or have just given birth. Paternity leave is related to additions to an employee's family as well but may be used by both male and female employees. For example, a male or female employee may take paternity leave after the birth of a foster child, after adopting a child, or following the placement of a foster child.
Understanding the difference between maternity and paternity leave can be easy as long as a person equates maternity leave with mothers. Maternity leave is restricted to women who are either pregnant or have recently given birth to a child. Paternity leave, on the other hand, may apply to employees of either gender. For example, paternity leave may apply to a male or female who needs time off with a newborn, foster child, or newly adopted child.
The rules involving maternity and paternity leave may depend on the laws of the jurisdiction and the employer’s policies. In many places, however, both types of leave must be taken within one year of the birth of a child or the placement of a child through adoption or foster care. Maternity leave may extend from several days to a full year, depending on the country in which the employee resides. Paternity leave lengths may vary as well but are often shorter than maternity leave periods. Additionally, paternity leave is less common than maternity leave.
Another difference between maternity and paternity leave may involve when the leave begins. In most cases, maternity leave begins before the birth of a child or right after it. Paternity leave, however, doesn’t always have to begin right after the birth of a child. Additionally, the offer of maternity leave is typically required by a jurisdiction’s laws while some may not require employers to provide paternity leave.
Time an employee needs off from work to care for a seriously ill newborn, foster child, or newly adopted child isn't usually considered paternity leave. Instead, an employee would usually take a different type of family leave for the purpose of caring for a seriously ill family member. Family leave may also be taken to care for a spouse or a domestic partner with a serious ailment or disability, following the birth of a child, or during pregnancy.