Maternity Leave 101

If you are planning to start a family in the near future PLEASE be fully informed about your employer’s maternity leave policy before you become pregnant. As every employer’s policies differ, you may be just as surprised as I was to learn what benefits are available, or rather not available in my case. I work for a very small business and was quite taken aback to learn I will NOT receive ANY form of paid leave. Although I know by law small businesses are held to different rules concerning work policies, I never imagined one of the most joyous times could also become one of the most stressful times in my life. As I am scheduled for a c-section I know I will need at least 12 weeks off. That is 3 months without income!

Image Credit: empower moments.org

The U.S. is the ONLY developed nation that does not guarantee some form of paid leave. The only law currently in place is FMLA, (Family Medical Leave Act) which ensures qualified employees get 12 weeks unpaid, job-protected leave for family & medical reasons. But did you catch the qualified part? By “qualified” it means you must work 1,250 hours per year for a company that employs 50 or more people. Welp, so now not only will I have zero income from my job, but I also face the risk of losing my position as well.

So many working women face this very same issue every year, and it is absolutely heartbreaking! According to the U.S. Department of Labor only 12% of American workers have access to paid family leave. YES, I said 12%. For many working women it’s a catch 22. Woman who take the full 12 weeks lose income and struggle financially. Those who go back early face an increased risk of postpartum depression, have less bonding time with their newborn, and are forced to forgo breastfeeding.  This situation causes many women to drop out of the workforce all together.

Currently 3 states: California, New Jersey, & Rhode Island guarantee paid family leave. It is funded by employee-paid payroll taxes and administered through disability programs. Many other states are lobbying to join, in the mean time it is up to employers to offer paid leave. Realizing the importance of paid leave as it pertains to the overall well-being of it’s employees, many companies BOTH large & small have voluntarily offered to implement paid leave, either full salary or a portion.

Paid leave is GOOD for business

Image Credit: femside.com

Based on a study by California’s Center for Economic Policy & Research, after the state implemented paid leave 91% of businesses said it had a positive effect on profitability or no effect at all.  They found the number of women who returned to work increased, in comparison to an increase in resignations prior to the paid leave law.

I learned during my MBA studies that your employees are your greatest asset. They hold more value than the products you sell or services offered. Therefore it is imperative to build a culture of trust, and a philosophy built upon taking care of your people as they are the ones who take care of your business. 

Many companies have realized this and begun to implement amazing maternity leave policies. And the Dad’s are not being left out, many offer paternity leave as well. Tech giants are leading the way, as they have the best policies.

  • Groupon– 16 weeks paid leave, full salary
  • Facebook– 16 weeks paid leave (Mom & Dad), full salary, plus a $5,000 baby bonus
  • Google– 18 weeks paid maternity leave, 12 weeks paternity leave, full salary
  • Microsoft– 20 weeks paid maternity leave, 12 weeks paid paternity leave, full salary
  • Adobe– 26 weeks paid maternity leave, 16 weeks paid paternity leave, full salary
  • Netflix– UNLIMITED paid time -off for 1 YEAR

Many of these companies said the rate of new Moms leaving their company fell by 50% with the newly implemented maternity & paternity leave. That is an incredible number! That means the new Moms are happy, content, & feel valued by the employer.

Options outside of Paid Leave:

If you find yourself in a situation like me here are a few options

  1. Short-term Disability– Insurance paid for by employers or unions. Aflac offers a plan for employees to acquire on their own. Pays between 50-100% of current salary for a specific number of weeks
  2. Vacation Time
  3. Sick Leave
  4. Personal Days
  5. Work from home 
  6. Go to part-time hours

Unfortunately everyone does not work for one of these amazing tech companies and are forced to take partial salary or none at all during maternity leave. And in reality, even your vacation or sick time may not be enough. Just be sure to contact your HR department or your manager so you can be fully informed as this knowledge is imperative to making important financial, family, and even career decisions. The better you are prepared for maternity leave the less stress you will endure during your leave, well in terms of finances anyway!

 

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