Today, the United States lags behind other countries when it comes to paid maternity leave. This is an unfortunate reality that many mothers face. If you are expecting a child but your employer does not have maternity leave available, let us share a few tips to help you.
1. If your company has 50 or more employees or is in the government/public/education sector, the Family and Medical Leave Act gives you the right to be home. While FMLA can help you in this situation, this is not a paid leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act simply guarantees you can return to your job with the same benefits after taking care of your baby for up to 12 weeks in a 12-month period.
2. Some state laws have policies that allow mothers some paid maternity leave. For example, California and New Jersey. In New Jersey, paid leave is provided for mothers, but only for six of the twelve weeks. In California, mothers can receive up to six weeks at 55 percent of weekly wage. In Connecticut, mother do not receive paid maternity leave from the state but are allowed from six to sixteen weeks of unpaid leave. Rules vary by state and are always changing, so be sure to check your state government’s website to know the up-to-date policies.
3. Bank available days off and use them after the baby is born. Even if your company does not offer maternity leave, it most likely offers paid sick time, personal time or a combination of both. Save those days throughout the year until after the baby is born. You are still entitled to this time and there is most likely no rule saying you cannot string these days together. Do not leave your employer flat-footed though. Discuss this with him or her so that your plans are understood.
4. Ask to work from home. Plan ahead for the birth of your baby, especially if you have a role at your company that will be hard to fill. Speak with your boss to see if he or she can accommodate you working from home with your newborn. Many jobs can be done virtually, as long as you have access to a computer and the internet.
5. Make extra money before the baby is home. If you employer is not accommodating, work to be as financially prepared as possible. Babies are expensive and you may not realize just how much additional income you will need. Consider adjusting how you save money, your expenses that an be cut or accept overtime responsibilities if offered. When you have more money saved than usual can help offset unpaid leave once the baby is born.
In all situations that you can, have an open conversation with your employer or supervisor. We know how difficult this conversation can be for both employees and employers. We welcome you to talk to one of our experienced, local employment attorneys about this issue today.