A big fear of expecting mothers who are working full-time is what is going to happen when they have to leave work to give birth or take care of their child. And while you would assume that a new mother is automatically given “maternity leave,” that is not always the case.
Here are some things you should know if you are expecting a child.
1. There is no standard for what “maternity leave” means.
The term “maternity leave” is used so often in today’s society that many people assume they know what it means. The reality is that what maternity leave means for a working pregnant woman differs depending federal and state laws and specific company policies.
2. Know your rights.
While it is true that your maternity leave rights are dictated by your employer’s company policies, federal and state laws, over 50 percent of the population in the United States is guaranteed some leave associated with being a new parent.
The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that provides job protection and leave for employees who are pregnant. This often also extends to employees who are the spouse or partner of a pregnant individual or who have recently adopted a child. Typically, new parents are given 12 weeks of unpaid leave following the birth of a child or the recent adoption of a child. Following those 12 weeks, an employer is required to restore an employee to their original job position or an equivalent position.
While it is not as much time, if you are not covered under The FMLA (depending on your state and the company you work for), a woman who has recently given birth can take 6 weeks of medical or maternal leave without fear of losing her job. There are obviously exceptions to this general rule. If for example, there were complications with the mother or newborn child, a new mother can be awarded more time off.
3. Will you see any money on maternity leave?
While any leave provided to new parents is appreciated, often the main thing new parents wonder about is whether they should expect to be paid when on leave. Of the few states that offer some form of payment during maternity leave, California is probably the most generous. Workers in California are eligible to receive over 50 percent of their current salary when on leave, an amount that no other state currently offers.
Unfortunately, unless you are living in one of the few states that provide a very limited amount of paid leave, you should not expect to receive any form of payment.
4. Keep in mind any company policy
If you are expecting, find out exactly what your company’s policy is when it comes to maternity leave. Learn what your company normally offers employees, and also make sure to keep your manager informed about what is going on.
The current system of federal and state laws is far from perfect and leaves a lot of new parents not receiving the time they need to care for their newborn child. However, keeping in mind your specific state’s laws and company policies is crucial to making sure you receive the leave that is available to you as a new parent.