- Women's Health
How Much Time Off Can You Take For a Maternity Leave
How Much Time Off Can You Take For a Maternity Leave?
Unfortunately, the time off for a maternity leave may be very little or none at all, and most likely it will not be with pay. The U.S. is only one of three industrialized nations that doesn't require employers to offer paid maternity leave; the other two nations are Australia and New Zealand.
It is interesting to note that while I worked in S. Korea, a so-called developing nation, if I was to become pregnant, even though I was not a citizen, I would still be entitled to a maternity leave of 3 months off from work - with pay. I was told this was absolutely necessary for the health of the mother, and the pay was simply a right. American families have no such guaranteed benefit or right.
There are some federal laws, new state laws, and company policy that may provide some time off for maternity leave. It is a good idea to be prepared with information before requesting the time off; even with laws in place, there may be exemptions at your company. Further, if you are to receive any pay at all, it will most likely be pay already owed to you, such as vacation time, or accumulated sick days; you may have to plan not to use this time off in advance.
A few states are moving in the right direction by offering paid leave. If you live in one of these three states (listed below) you will need to be aware of all the rules and regulations, as there may be exemptions.
The following information may prove useful if you are planning to take a maternity leave, or even if you are job hunting and want to know future benefits at a particular company.
Federal laws: There is the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act). Depending on which company you work for, you may be given up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. However, the company must have more than 50 employees. Also, you may be exempted from the FMLA if you are a part-time employee or if you have worked at the same job for less than a year.
State Laws: Change is happening at the state level. Three states, California, New Jersey, and Washington, have passed laws requiring certain employers to give their workers time off with pay. Again, you need to know if there are exemptions, such as length of time worked and the size of the company.
While other states have laws mandating unpaid leave for certain amounts of time, each state is different. You can find out more by going to the website for the National Conference of State Legislature. The website is ncsl(dot)org.
Company policy: Many employers expect women to take accumulated sick days, vacation time, or to use their short-term disability benefits which usually total about 6 weeks. Check your employee/employer website or company handbook to see what is offered.
You may want to ask yourself, why this total economic disfranchisement of a pregnant woman is acceptable in the US, a country that talks about family values. If three states can finally effect change, then why not all fifty.