You’ve discovered that you’re expecting. As you prepare to take time off from work to spend with the newest member of your family, it’s important to determine what type of leave is best for your needs and how you’ll handle the temporary drop in your financial compensation.
There are two types of leave typically associated with welcoming a child – maternity leave and leave granted under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). While they are similar and actually overlap in many instances, there are still differences between the two. The most important distinction is that maternity leave is prescribed by internal company policies and is not required by law, while FMLA is federally-mandated if you’re eligible.
Maternity leave comes down to your company’s policies. Unless you’re eligible for FMLA, most companies aren’t required to give a new parent any time off, paid or unpaid. Thus, maternity leave is a benefit provided by the company itself. Unlike the FMLA, a company’s internal maternity leave policy does not, per federal law, protect your job or ensure that you will be reinstated.
If you’re one of the lucky ones, your company may offer paid maternity leave. In some other cases, the company will allow you to take time off and use your paid sick time, personal days and vacation days to stay home with your new child. Also, you may be able to continue to receive a portion of your salary if your company provides, and you are eligible for, short-term disability insurance (STD). On average, STD covers 50 to 70 percent of your salary, depending upon your plan.
Overall, the average time for maternity leave in the U.S. is six weeks for a standard birth and eight weeks for a Caesarean-section, but leave can be longer or shorter depending on the company policy.
Unlike a company’s internal maternity leave policy, the FMLA provides you with leave with job protection. Simply put, the FMLA provides employees with unpaid family leave for a number of issues, including maternity leave, as well as caring for a parent, spouse or child, or recovering from a surgery, illness or injury. You are allowed to take up to 12 weeks leave within a 12-month period.
Unlike maternity leave, your company is required to grant leave under the FMLA, but only if you meet the eligibility requirements. You must work for your company for at least one year and put in 1,250 hours. In addition, your company must employ 50 or more workers in a 75-mile radius.
While you are on FMLA-protected leave, your company is not required to pay any portion of your salary; however FMLA ensures that your job is still available when you return, while maternity leave does not. While you’re on FMLA-protected leave, your company must keep you on its health insurance, but the company can require you to fund the premiums out of your own pocket.
As discussed above, you may also be able to receive compensation while on FMLA if you’re eligible under a STD policy. Also, FMLA may coincide with a company’s maternity leave policy, protecting your job and ensuring reinstatement.
As a new parent, you want to spend as much time as possible bonding with your baby. But you also need to be sure your job and your finances are protected during your time away from work. Talk with your supervisors and human resources department to find out if you’re covered under an internal maternity leave policy, FMLA or both.
Barrett & Farahany, an Atlanta Employment Law Firm, has been representing clients with employment claims for over a decade. Attorney Amanda Farahany is a national speaker on the topics of sexual harassment and discrimination. She regularly contributes to the local and national news on topics affecting employees in the workplace today.