4 Things To Know About Maternity Leave
Prepping for your baby’s arrival goes beyond setting up their nursery and installing a car seat. Planning for your maternity leave is an important step in securing financial stability and a smooth transition into life with your little one. While there are federal standards for maternity leave, not all new parents are guaranteed time off through their employer.
1. Federal Maternity Leave Laws
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires that most companies offer their employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave time after welcoming a child. The FMLA applies to both new moms and dads and includes those who adopt a child. Companies with less than 50 employees may not be required to adhere to the FMLA guidelines. Additional exceptions to the FMLA maternity leave policy include a length of employment of less than 12 months and employees whose wages account for the top 10 percent of revenue for the company.
For families who can afford it, taking 12 weeks of unpaid family leave is a great way for new parents to bond with their newborn and establish a routine. If you are using unpaid maternity leave, it is important to plan ahead because there is a greater probability of experiencing financial challenges.
2. When to Take Maternity Leave
Some moms-to-be choose to begin their maternity leave in the weeks prior to their baby’s birth due to discomforts experienced during the last trimester of pregnancy or as a way to better organize and prepare for their little one’s arrival. Other expectant moms choose to work up until their due date to maximize their time off and bond with their newborn.
The FMLA offers new parents 12 weeks of unpaid leave time that can be used within 12 months following their child’s birth. Parents can choose to use all 12 weeks at once, or space them out over their baby’s first year of life. While choosing specifically when to use maternity leave, be sure to keep in mind that most employers require a notice of 30 days prior to your planned maternity leave.
3. Using Short-Term Disability
If your employer is not required by law to offer its employees the unpaid time guaranteed under the FMLA, you may be able to use short-term disability coverage to supplement your salary for a certain number of weeks.
The percentages paid and the lengths of time of coverage vary. The coverage time may also be affected by complicated births such as a C-Section, so it is important to confirm what your policy covers prior to your due-date.
4. Using Accrued Time Off
Most companies allow you to use sick, vacation and holiday time towards your maternity leave. Some companies require that you use whichever of these benefits you have available before using any disability or unpaid time. It is important to check with your HR department to confirm the policies related to using your sick, vacation, and holiday time in relation to maternity leave.
The best way to plan for your maternity leave is to talk to you company’s human resources department after your first trimester. Your HR team can provide information on state family leave mandates, which may exceed the federal mandate, and any policies or restrictions on using vacation, sick, and unpaid time. If you receive health benefits through your employer, ask the HR department about the status of your benefits during maturity leave, whether or not anything changes, and who pays your premiums.