When you're pregnant, one of the most important things on your mind (besides the health of your baby, of course!) is maternity leave. You may be wondering where to apply for maternity leave, how much time you'll have off work, how much money you'll get, and what your options are. If you’re living in the US, it may be not be exactly what you think.
The first 12 weeks of a baby’s life are a critical time for moms to recover physically and to bond with their newborns. Taking time off after the birth of a baby benefits both parents and employers, including increasing the odds you’ll breastfeed longer and employee retention.
For the US to be a first world country our maternity leave pales in comparison to our foreign counterparts.
Unfortunately, many women struggle taking time off because their employers don’t offer enough pay (if any) paid leave for childbirth – and moms can’t afford to go without a paycheck.
Thought this may be the case, private companies and even some states now offer new parents paid time off as a part of a family leave policy.
In this blog post, we'll discuss maternity leave in the U.S. so that you can start planning for your time off!
What Is Maternity Leave?
Maternity leave is the period of absence from work granted to a mother before and after birth. Paternity leave is typically defined as the time a father takes off work.
How long is Maternity Leave?
Standard maternity leave is 12 weeks long, if you are eligible for FMLA (unfortunately many people in the US aren’t.)
Through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) the federal government guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for the birth of a newborn or adopting a child. Not every company is required to offer FMLA to their employees. (More information on that below.)
Do you get paid for Maternity Leave?
Some employers and states offer paid family leave, but not all. FMLA doesn’t require employer to pay their workers during the time they take off.
Employer’s Family Leave Policy
Some companies have decided to offer generous paid leave policies that provide you with full months of pay and job protection. These policies vary depending on your employer. To learn more about what policies your employer has available for family leave ask the company’s human resources department or leave department.
States with Paid Leave
As of today, there are 11 states that offer Paid Family and Medical Leave, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware and D.C. These state policies are usually funded through employee-paid payroll taxes and are administered through disability insurance programs.
Employees of the federal government now receive 12 weeks of paid parental leave after the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act went into effect October 2020.
What is FMLA?
FMLA is a federal program that requires some eligible companies in the U.S. to allow their employees (both male and female) 12 weeks of unpaid paid , job-protected family leave within a 12-month period before or after the birth or adoption of a child.
FMLA requires employers to return you to your position or a similar or with the same compensation at the end of your 12- week leave.
Qualifying for FMLA
- Your company has 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your workplace.
- You’ve worked for your employer at least 12 months (they don’t have to be consecutive)
- You’ve worked 1,250 hours with your employer within the 12 months prior to the start of your leave.
How to get paid during Maternity Leave
Short-term disability is a benefit that can allow you to get paid while you are out and can help extend your maternity leave.
What is Short Term Disability Insurance?
Short-term disability (STD) insurance, which may be paid by your employer, and generally pays between 50 – 100 percent of your salary for a certain number of weeks. Your disability begins once your doctor has you listed as disable and says you can’t work. Not only will STD cover you after birth, but also prior to birth if you have complications of need to be put on bed rest.
Short Term Disability covers a portion of your salary during the time you are unable to do your job. Typically disability is dependent on the type of birth you have. Vaginal delivery has a disability period of about 6 weeks, whicle C-sections have a disability period of about 8 week.s
It is important to note that STD does not cover nay bonding time you wish to have with your baby. Once your phsycian no longer lists you as disabled, STD payments will stop.
There is a stipulation. Depending on your employer, you may have to exhaust all of your vacation time, PTO, and sick leave prior to filing for STD. There is also a waiting period before you will start to receive your disability payments. The waiting period could be 7-15 days and is unpaid. Most moms, use their PTO, vacation or sick time during their waiting period so they don’t go without pay.
“Pre-Existing Condition” and Short Term Disability
If you have to enroll in short term disability and it is not paid for by employer, you’ll want to enroll in the benefit before you get pregnant. If you enroll after you are already pregnant there will be restrictions surrounding your pay and duration. The benefits company may only cover your disability for 4 weeks instead of 6 or 8.
How do I Start Maternity Leave
- Reach out to your Human Resources or Leave Department and see if there is any paperwork needed to initiate the leave process close to the end of your second trimester or during the beginning of your third trimester
- Your employer will provide you with a medical certification, or document that needs to be completed by your physician and returned to them.
- Your employer will their review your tenure and hours to see if you’re eligible for FMLA.
- You’ll notify your employer and STD company once baby is born.
- If eligible, STD payments will begin.
To have all this information at your fingertips download our FREE Maternity Survival Guide