The short answer is: It depends.
There are many factors involved in deciding how much time you can take off, including your employment status, state law and company policy.
Each year thousands of women are not entitled to any paid maternity leave according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau. Many women do not have access to paid leave through their employers or have accrued so little vacation or sick time that taking the unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave would result in being fired for an extended period of time after they return from maternity leave. A recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management noted that 66% of employers who provide maternity leave offer six weeks or less.
As per William D King Only 12% of the companies surveyed offered paid maternity benefits beyond six weeks, 12% provided some pay during maternity leave and about 8% had no maternity-related policies at all.
If you are one of the many women who need to take unpaid time off after having a baby, you should know what your rights are under FMLA. Here’s how it works:
- You must have worked for your company for at least 1 year in order to receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave per year through FMLA. Only employees with specified job titles are eligible under FMLA — “professional” employees are not covered by this act (meaning teachers, lawyers or doctors).
- Your company must have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of your workplace or you are not eligible for FMLA benefits.
- If both parents work for the same company, their combined total of leave time may be no more than 12 weeks per year under FMLA. And only one parent is entitled to take parental leave through FMLA – even if both parents work for the same company. So think about who will do more child rearing as far as caring for a newborn and making doctor’s appointments goes before deciding which of you should take some time off from work after your baby is born.
When Will My Company Start Paying Me When I’m on Leave?
You won’t receive any pay during this period unless you have accrued enough leave time through FMLA to cover the length of your maternity leave. So if you are planning on taking 6 weeks off, hope that you have at least 6 days (working) worth of sick and vacation time saved up.
Six weeks is pretty standard for most companies when it comes to maternity leave — but again, this depends largely on your company’s policy. Some women also get an extra two weeks of paid “baby bonding” time through their employer’s short-term disability insurance plan.
How Long Can My Company Keep Me On Leave?
You can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave per year through FMLA. The law states that you can spend a maximum of 12 workweeks in any 12-month period on leave.
However, the 12-week limit includes any sick or vacation time that you have accrued before your leave begins so if you are planning on being off work for an extended period of time, expect to have to use up all of your accrued sick and vacation time too.
How Is FMLA Different From Short-Term Disability Benefits?
If you are eligible under FMLA guidelines (see above), once your doctor gives you a written notice stating that it is okay for you to go back to work , your company must return you to the same or comparable position at the same pay rate. Your company cannot fire you while on leave. However, they can place you on unpaid suspension until your maternity leave expires. Keep in mind that your company can choose to use short-term disability benefits to supplement your FMLA leave — so if you are receiving some pay; know that it may not be enough for you to support yourself and your baby.
Your employer cannot require you to take more than 12 weeks of FMLA leave in one year unless they voluntarily extend the time period. And finally, if the position is no longer available when you return from maternity leave because your employer went out of business or eliminated your job due to a reduction in force (RIF), then you must be reinstated into another position that is equivalent in pay and status. Your new salary should be based on what you made before maternity leave began, just as much as possible.
In most cases, employers must continue to provide the same benefits (health insurance, retirement, etc.) that they were providing before you left on maternity leave. Exceptions to this rule include:
If your employer contributes to a group health plan, and you pay part of the cost of coverage through payroll deductions, then your employer can require you to pay up to 102% of your normal share during your time off. Your company cannot make any type of deduction for FMLA leave from your salary or wages.
Conclusion by William D King:
The FMLA can be a very important law for expecting and new parents, but it’s not the only one. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is another federal law that also gives employees certain rights related to their jobs while they are serving in the National Guard or Reserves.