In this post, we define maternity leave, describe its usual period, explain the most prevalent forms of parental leave in the US, and offer advice on how to make the most of your parental leave.
A new parent who is giving birth to a baby or adopting a kid is given time off from work during maternity leave, also known as main caregiver leave.
Working parents may frequently have questions about their benefits, paid-time-off policies, and different types of leave, especially since some may vary by state or employer and depend on how long new parents have worked at their current job. This adjustment period is an important time for working parents.
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Table of Contents
What is maternity leave?
A birthing parent is exempted from their job obligations while having a baby or adopting a kid during maternity leave, which is also referred to as main caregiver, parental, or family leave. Maternity leave comes in a variety of forms, some of which are provided by legislation, others through insurance benefits, and still others at the employer’s discretion.
When a qualified employee needs time off work for medical care for themselves or a family member, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), implemented in 1993, offers safeguards. You are given a 12-week unpaid leave of absence during your pregnancy, as well as maybe following the birth or adoption of your kid.
Definitions of parental leave
Parental leave can be called many things. Here are some of the common terms to look out for:
- Family leave, often referred to as family caregiver leave, refers to leaves taken for a variety of personal or medical reasons, such as delivery and adoption.
- Maternity leave: Traditionally, new parents are given maternity leave. In the United States, maternity leave normally lasts between two and twelve weeks.
- Paternity leave: Traditionally, non-birthing parents are given paternity leave. In the United States, non-birthing parents take an average of one week or less of paid or unpaid leave following the birth of a child, according to a 2018 research.
- Birth parents are often identified as the primary carers; however, some companies may also count non-birth parents as major caregivers.
- Secondary caregiver leave: The parent who did not give birth or the adoptive parents are often entitled to secondary caregiver leave.
- Parental leave: This kind of leave includes time off that is given to either one parent or both parents. A parental leave policy may provide for time off for an employee to care for a new baby, an adopted kid, a foster child, or another youngster who need parental care.
How long is the average parental leave?
The average length of maternity leave taken by American expectant parents, whether paid or unpaid, is 10 weeks, according to New America. In the United States, one in every four new parents goes back to work two weeks after giving birth. Except for those who work for the federal government, there is no paid family leave provided in the United States for new parents.
The District of Columbia and 11 states will have passed legislation ensuring paid family and medical leave by 2022. Private businesses decide whether to provide paid parental leave to their staff. Less than one in four civilian and private sector workers have access to paid family leave benefits, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Among the 38 OECD countries, the United States is the only one that does not require new parents to take any paid leave at all, according to statistics gathered by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Australia, Chile, Denmark, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Turkey are just a few of the many nations that make up the membership. In the OECD, expectant parents typically have access to little over 18 weeks of paid maternity leave following childbirth.
Types of parental leave
The following are types of parental leave in the U.S.:
Unpaid FMLA leave
Both parents who give birth and those who don’t have children are entitled to unpaid FMLA leave to spend time with their new baby. The FMLA allows non-birthing parents to take time off to care for their partners who are unable to care for themselves due to pregnancy or delivery.
Only 56% of American workers are entitled to FMLA protections. An employee must meet the following requirements in order to qualify for FMLA leave:
- before beginning the leave, have worked for the same employer for at least a year;
- a minimum of 1,250 hours of employment throughout that time (PTO and sick leave do not count);
- Work for a government agency or in an area where at least 50 individuals are employed by a private company within 75 miles of where you are.
Even though the FMLA only calls for unpaid time off, you are still given the option to use accumulated paid vacation, paid sick, or paid family leave for all or a portion of the required FMLA leave term. Paid leave that is used for an FMLA-eligible cause is protected by the FMLA. Contact the U.S. Department of Labor or your organization’s human resources department to learn more about the nuances of this statute.
Paid family leave
California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia all have paid family leave schemes in place as of May 2022; however, programmes in Oregon, Colorado, Maryland, and Delaware have not yet begun. These state programmes often provide job-protected PTO to connect with a newborn, adopted, or foster kid and are supported by payroll taxes paid by both employees and employers.
In certain places, if you need to recover following labour and delivery or a Caesarean section, a state-run maternity disability programme will provide six to eight weeks of time off. Only in cases when you are unable to work due to illness does this apply.
Extra leave time
In the United States, maternity leave typically lasts approximately ten weeks, although you can request a longer period. It’s a good idea to negotiate as much time as you think is required because employers could let you take as much time as you need, either paid or unpaid.
Paid time off
If you have PTO, you can choose to use it to either prolong your maternity leave or make sure you get paid while you’re away. If you want to know if you may take paid time off for all or part of your maternity leave, check with your human resources department. Paid time off is often included in a basic benefits package.
Some employees have access to a benefit that the corporation provides called short-term disability. When you choose short-term disability, it’s normal for a little sum of money to be taken out of your salary each month to pay for the program’s expenses. You are granted paid time off once you are prepared to begin your short-term disability.
Pregnancy leave and other types of unanticipated medical disabilities are covered under this benefit. To guarantee paid time off in the event of a pregnancy or adoption, you can acquire short-term disability directly from an insurance provider if your place of employment does not offer it.
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