Maternity leave refers to the period of time that a new mother takesoff from work following the birth of her baby. Many companies havesimilar policies for fathers, which allow for paternity leave. Maternityleave is usually created from a variety of benefits that include sickleave, vacation, holiday time, personal days, short-term disabilityand unpaid family leave time. It is important to plan your maternityleave so that you and your family do not experience any unexpectedfinancial challenges and you can make the most of your time with yourbaby.
What is Short-Term Disability?
Short-term disability is a type of coverage that pays your salary,or at least a portion of it, for a certain number of weeks becauseof medically related needs. Larger companies frequently include thisbenefit, and some states have mandates requiring that it is includedin your benefits. You may also purchase this type of coverage fromyour local insurance provider. The percentages paid and the lengthsof time of coverage vary. The coverage time may also be affected bycomplicated births (i.e. cesarean delivery), so it is important toconfirm what your policy covers.
It is possible that you may have coverage from multiple avenues,so it is important to confirm what the policies are with your company. Any monies paid to you from your employer are taxable, but it is possiblethat this may be offset by the new deduction that comes with yournew baby.
Can sick, vacation, and holiday time be used?
Most companies allow you to use your sick, vacation and holiday timetowards your maternity leave. Some companies require that you usethese benefits first before using any disability or unpaid time. Itis important to check with your human resources department to confirmthe policies related to using your sick, vacation, and holiday timein relation to your maternity leave. Also, question any restrictionson how it is used with disability and/or unpaid leave time.
How does unpaid leave work?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that requires mostcompanies to allow their employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid familyleave time after the birth of their child. The FMLA applies to bothmen and women and is also available for those that adopt a child. If the parents work for the same company, the 12 weeks is then dividedbetween the two of them and is an accumulation of both of their time(i.e.,. each could take 6 weeks off; one could take 4 weeks whilethe other takes 8 weeks).
There are exceptions to the FMLA which release a business from theobligation of allowing unpaid time off. These exceptions include thesize of the company (less than 50 employees), the time of employment(at least 12 months), and level of wages (top 10%). Employees withincomes that account for the top 10% of wages for the business maynot have access to the unpaid benefit if the company can show withevidence that your absence creates significant financial harm to theorganization. Some states have family leave acts that are broaderthan the federal mandate.
Check with your human resource department regarding your family leavetime:
- Determine if there is a state family leave mandate.
- Find the policies and restrictions on using vacation, sick, andunpaid time together.
- Check with your boss about any concerns related to your time away.
- Inquire about what happens to your benefits while you are on leave,whether or not anything changes, and who pays your premiums whileyou are on leave.
For families who can afford it, unpaid family leave is an excellentopportunity to further bond with your baby, establish the baby’s routine,get rest, and organize things around the house.
It is even more important to plan your maternity leave when you areusing unpaid leave because there is a greater probability of experiencingfinancial challenges.
When should I take my maternity leave?
Some women begin taking their leave a week to a month before theexpected birth because of discomfort or the desire for time to prepare. Others wait until the last moment so they can maximize their timewith the baby once it arrives. The FMLA requires that you provideyour employer with at least a 30 day notice of your intentions totake unpaid family time. Your boss will appreciate any additionaladvance notice to plan around the time you are absent.
Recommendations for Maternity Leave:
There are a number of things you can do to make your maternity leavethe best possible for both you and your employer:
- Check in with your human resources department to find out thedetails about your maternity leave options. This will help you planfor your best maternity leave options.
- Sit down with your partner and evaluate what time you can affordto take. It is better for you and your employer to know the planahead of schedule.
- After completing your first trimester, start the communicationwith human resources and those affected by your leave to help allparties prepare. Some employers are less friendly to pregnancy thanothers. You may need to evaluate the best time to share the newsbased on previous experiences you have witnessed in the office.
- Provide your boss with suggestions and strategies to address yourduties while you are gone, insights on what projects you are workingon, and suggested co-workers to meet your responsibilities whileon leave. This can help overcome potential concerns noted earlier.
For Additional Information:
U.S. Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division
200 Constitution Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20210
Compiled using information from the following source:
U.S. Department of Labor, http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/fmla/