FMLA Maternity Leave

FMLA maternity leave refers to the situation where a parent of either sex requests time off from work to attend the birth or complete the adoption of a child.

A few companies in the USA offer paid time off for mothers to be and partners. Most women use their short-term disability, vacation time, sick leave, personal days along with the Family Medical Leave Act to get some time off to tend to their baby.

The Family Medical Leave Act offers 12 weeks of time off that guarantees the job remains protected but does not offer pay. Maternity leave policies go by different names such as family leave, pregnancy leave, family medical leave, paternity leave, or parental leave to cover some other situations where children are involved. No national standardized policy exists across the nation. Instead a host of workplace policies exist that may have an official stance or may not. Some of the policies have payment or partial payment for the time off and others do not. A mother to be in most cases strings together a maternity leave from the other benefits days available. When an employee becomes aware of pregnancy the employee should talk to human resources or the employer about what combination of paid and unpaid leave will be available for use when the time comes. The time off lets the family bond with the child.

Preparing for Maternity Leave

Understand a child becomes born at its choosing not the parents. Despite a due date most babies do not choose to be born on that day. Maternity-leave start dates need flexibility to work. A job has a flow to it. So, making lists of what procedures and processes become used in the daily routine makes it easier for a person to temporarily take your place. Leave contact information, hints on how to work efficiently, and people on the job that can help while you are away taking care of your child. Notify human resources.

What is FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act)?

The policy created by the government directs larger employers to offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees with a serious health condition or who must care for a family member who has a health condition. It also covers pregnancy leave, foster care, and adoption. The law states a person after the 12 weeks leave can return to the position with no consequences. FMLA when created was left intentionally flexible. It can even be taken in small segments if the employer agrees to it. When planning leave be clear in the intent, duration, and which portion of the benefits will become used to accommodate the need.

The law has two components in most states. A person can be eligible for one or both parts.

  1. The Federal portion of the law FMLA covers employees and offers job protection

  2. The state portion such as the Connecticut Family Medical Leave Act (CT FMLA) which may have different options to cover gaps.

Check with your employer to see which portions of the law cover your situation.

Can I Use the FMLA for Pregnancy Leave?

Unbelievably the birth of a child qualifies as a serious health condition under the law. The FMLA also covers complication related to childbirth and/or pregnancy as well as serious health conditions. This includes foster care, adoption, and any postpartum conditions. Its flexibility includes being able to use FMLA during pregnancy itself if unexpected complications arise. It can be used for up to one year after the birth or adoption of a child. If a spouse and a pregnant employee work at the same place in this case the couple only gets a combined 12 weeks of leave. Companies can require all vacation days, personal days and sick leave become used first before using the unpaid FMLA leave.

Three Types of Leave Under FMLA for Pregnancy

How your leave becomes classified determines how the benefit becomes handled. Look closely at what the employer classifies your leave as.

  • Pregnancy Leave. IF complications in the pregnancy appear and cause a serious health condition then FMLA can be requested. Your doctor will determine the length of the leave necessary.

  • Parental Leave. Following the adoption or birth of a child, men or women can request an FMLA as a parental leave during the first year of the child’s birth or adoption.

  • Intermittent Parental Leave. For a limited time, parents can work part time after a child’s birth. It does not have to be consecutive but can be taken at a later date than the birth.

Qualification for FMLA Leave

If a company has more than 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius, then employees qualify for FMLA leave in that workplace. The FMLA applies to state, Federal and local government workers. The minimum number of weeks required for the FMLA remains at 12 weeks unpaid leave with job protection. An employer must hold the employees job while on leave or have a similar job with the same benefits, salary and working conditions. If all necessary paperwork becomes done and FMLA certification in place employee request for leave cannot be denied. The employee must request the leave 30 days before taking it to give the employer time to make arrangements. The employee must have worked 1,250 hours in the 12 months before the start of the FMLA leave. Planning in advance lets employees have a better-negotiating position when asking for the leave.

Twenty-five states have added supplemental protections to the FMLA either by extension of the length of maternity leave up to 16 weeks, partial payment of such leave, or by even lowering the minimum employer size to below 50 so they have the FMLA leave. Presently Rhode Island, New Jersey and California have state maternity leave or better defined as state parental leave which remains unpaid but job protected. Disability laws sometimes cover a woman’s pregnancy or birth of a child and so four states use that to cover families.

For example, in Connecticut an employee can qualify for both Connecticut FMLA and the Federal version of FMLA. The leave periods would run concurrently. In other words, an employee cannot add the two leaves together. Whichever lists as the longer leave takes precedent. If the employer offers paid maternity leave then it too will run concurrently with the Connecticut FMLA and the Federal FMLA.

Can I Take Paid Leave Under the FMLA for Pregnancy?

Employers presently have no obligation to offer paid parental or pregnancy leave. Some states such as California have since 2002 given employees paid time off for paternity and maternity leave. Some of the leaves have been funded by the state disability programs instead of employers. Of course, many corporates in appreciation for their employees have extended unpaid leave beyond 12 weeks. Explore all the options since under certain conditions state law provisions that additional time can be taken off regardless of how much corporate maternity paid leave has been taken. It will be unpaid leave in this case but it has been an option for some families.

What is Connecticut Family Medical Leave Act (CT FMLA)?

State family leaves vary and has different rules. The Connecticut Family Medical Leave Act has been more generous than the FMLA at Federal level. It has 16 weeks of unpaid job protection that can be taken for a 24-month period after a child is born. Work sites that have at least 75 employees without state or local government employees qualify. On October 1 of any given year the count of employees becomes taken. Eligibility requirements state for an employee to qualify they must have worked 1,000 hours in the 12 months prior.

Other differences exist between Federal and state plans. In the CT FMLA it does not require health benefits to become maintained while the FMLA requires group health benefits to maintain during the leave. While on leave employees may have to pay for their health insurance premiums. Under the CT FMLA all health benefits become restored once returning to work. Under C FMLA no specific time is set to begin the leave and no formal letter becomes required. It has been suggested though to document the announcement of pregnancy and wanting leave in writing. Managers need only a verbal request. An employer decides whether you need a medical confirmation of pregnancy. Check on the definition of the term “spouse”. In Connecticut same sex marriages, nonbiological parents and civil union partnerships are eligible for the leave. If for some reason a couple does not qualify for FMLA or CT FMLA like working for a small employer then it's possible an employer can grant unpaid leave under the pregnancy discrimination provisions in Connecticut’s Fair Employment Practices Act known as CFEPA. CFEPA ensures that if disability results from pregnancy then it is illegal to discriminate against that employee asking for for a leave.

Maternity Leave Rights

Knowing your maternity leaves rights remains especially important in the USA since no one policy covers it. Most other developed countries have a specific policy with pay, but they may not have the compensatory policies listed earlier. So, in those countries though their job becomes protected during those first two years after childbirth they may not receive the other job protections found in the USA. A person can research their rights at the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission known as the EEOC website. Under the pregnancy discrimination act it describes protections and other related laws. It offers resources and contact information.

Other options exist once the STD benefits exhaust as well as the vacation time, sick and personal days. If you still wish to remain home with your baby talk to human resources. Check to see if you can take an unpaid leave of absence or an unpaid disability leave. An increasing option due to technology has been telecommuting and working from home for a period of time.

Maternity Leave Policy

Only about 16 percent of private employers give paid maternity leave programs. Contract and unionized female employees often have different maternity leave policies. If not a solid policy at the place of employment try negotiating a deal especially at a small company. Check with local temporary employment services for a person who could cover your position while you are on leave. If your employer does fund a maternity leave policy understand in many ways it is treated like a regular paycheck with insurance premiums and taxes withheld. If the maternity leave stems from disability benefits get a clarification from human resources. IN some cases, if the employer pays the insurance premiums it lists as a taxable benefit. If the employee pays for the disability the benefits are tax-free. Working part time remains an option as well. Know it can affect the level of money for the maternity leave depending on who is funding it. Do some research. Make a plan that works with your life. Understand your rights.

Difference Between Maternity Leave and Short-Term Disability (STD)

If pregnancy defines as a short term disability then it becomes paid leave while recovering from childbirth. An STD can cover 100 percent of a maternity leave if the employee paid insurance premiums. Sometimes a STD only covers a portion of a person’s salary. Often unions and employers offer STD insurance policies. Many do not announce as possible maternity leave since technically pregnancy is not a disability but the option exists in the policy. So, check with the employer and the union if a pregnancy clause exists. STD payments require a medical certification from a health care provider. If considering adoption know that STD will not pay for a leave for that.

Conclusion

The ins and outs of maternity leave are many. Other items to check are how it impacts your seniority at work, can you continue to pay into a 401K or reimbursement of the monies if you do not return from a leave. Once you make your plan for the leave, and how to fund it, get it in writing the do’s and don’ts. Then enjoy your child while you are on leave.

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