You know, the important tasks that aren’t as fun as decorating the nursery or organizing tiny baby clothes?
My employer (County Government) didn’t have a straight forward policy where I was guaranteed 6-weeks off paid or unpaid. It all depended on how much vacation and sick time I had accrued and if I qualified under FMLA.
When I informed my HR department, they said I quality for FMLA (The Family Medical Leave Act) and handed me a stack of papers and forwarded me a boatload of links to figure out and to “let them know if I had any questions.”
I did have questions. Lots of them. And HR couldn’t really answer them.
I fumbled through understanding all of this State and Federal documents and website, and more importantly, the budget it left us as I was the main source of income for our home.
When pregnant with my my second baby, I was employed by a different County and fumbled through again, but a little less the second time around.
I felt heartbroken (or more like outraged) at the lack of support and resources for women during this pivotal time!
After having my second baby, I wrote a short e-book (a digital guide) about the process and all the tips and resources that I wish I had before fumbling through everything and being outraged during the entire process.
You can find my digital guide by clicking the button below, but here is a quick little snippet from the guide to help you understand a little bit more about FMLA and if you qualify for the State programs that pay you during your maternity leave:
Topic #1 Understanding your Employers Maternity Leave Program
More and more organizations are expanding and constantly updating their maternity leave policies to accommodate the ever changing needs and trends of the workforce. When you are comfortable informing your employer that you are expecting (typically after the first trimester), check in your HR department to see what your specific company policy offers.
Questions you want answered:
- How much time off do they offer? Do you have to take that time in one chunk of time or can you break it up?
- How much of that time is paid by your employer?
- Is it fully paid or partially paid?
- Are you required to use your accrued paid sick or vacation time, or is this time given to you?
- Are you allowed to use any of your accrued paid sick or vacation time to supplement any non-paid time?
- Do they offer support programs or flex schedules?
Don’t forget about Paternity Leave!
Men are finally getting the support they need when they become fathers, too! Have your partner ask these same questions to their employer to understand what options are available for them as well.
If you are a same-sex couple, still have your partner ask these same questions!
Federal and State Laws your rights and if/how to file
The Family Medical Leave Act
Legal rights to taking time off for having a baby falls under The Family Medical Leave Act (also referred to as FMLA) within the Federal Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division.
Time off under FMLA
FMLA provides certain eligible employees up to 12-weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for a specific family and medical reason, with your health insurance staying intact.
So the point to understand here is that FMLA covers more than time off for maternity leave. You can use 12 weeks of FMLA within a one-year timeframe for any of the following reasons:
- To care for a newborn child within one year of birth; or
- The adoption or foster care of a child within one year of placement; or
- To care for your spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition; or
- A serious health condition of your own that leaves you unable to perform essential functions of your job; or
- If your spouse, child, or parent in an active duty military member that has a qualifying exigency; or 26 workweeks of leave are given if there is a serious injury or illness of the active duty member.
To be eligible for FMLA, you must
- Work for a covered employer – which means the company employs 50+ employees within 20 or more workweeks throughout the year; and
- You have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours within a 12-month period prior to the start of leave (keep in mind that approx. 9 months is while you’re pregnant); and
- Have worked for the employer for at least 12 months.
If you meet these FMLA requirements
- Contact your HR department to verify your FMLA eligibility; and
- Gather all necessary information specific to your employers maternity leave policy. You want to understand if FMLA can fill in any missing gaps; and
- Read on for how to file the State documents that get you paid during your FMLA time off.
Want more details and resources?
Visit the Department of Labor, Family and Medical Leave Act website (Click HERE).
They actually have an easy to navigate frequently asked questions page (HERE), general guidance, facts sheets, and e-tools.
If you are not eligible for FMLA
Labor laws do not require employers to retain your position or continue any benefits; however, The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The employer must keep the job open for the same period of time that it keeps jobs open for employees who go on disability or sick leave.
Talk with your HR department
Ask HR to provide you written documentation of company policies around medical leave so that all expectations are clearly laid out. Read that entire policy a few times to make sure you fully understand! This information can be hard to understand at first and reading this a few times over will help you understand more each time.
Find other resources to help you
If you need more information on laws and resources that can protect you during this time, we suggest finding an agency that specializes in policy and legislative advocacy and enforcement. A Better Balance Organization might be a helpful resource for you (Click HERE)
The Federal Government protects you but the State Government pays you
Maternity Leave under FMLA is broken up into two separate programs:
Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave
Each State administers the funds and manages the filing for both programs, and to make things confusing, the department that does the filing for these programs are named differently state to state; Employment Development Department, Department of Labor, Division of Workforce Services etc. ..
My e-book The Maternity Leave Guide has links to each state’s website and more details on understanding what percentage of your income these state programs pay you, how and when to file, what to expect, etc. (The whole guide is only $10)
This Maternity Leave Guide also includes information on:
- How to file the state documents for Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave
- When to add baby onto your Medical Insurance
- The must have products for after giving birth
- How to find a mom group
- Post-partum anxiety and depression is totally normal
- Returning back to work while still breastfeeding
- What if I don’t want to return back to work? The guide provides resources to find flexible work schedules online
- Access to it’s exclusive Facebook group to ask any questions and get advise and answers from other women who are also going through the same process!
It’s only 18 pages packed with short and sweet information that’s easy to digest so that you can get to the fun stuff, like decorating your nursery and organizing those cute tiny baby clothes!