Maternity Leave Is Your Right; What Expectant Mothers Should Know About The Family Medical Leave Act
For parents, having a baby is a joyous time. The added pressures of work however, and dealing with the bureaucracy of the family/maternity leave can take some of that joyousness away. The United States lags behind most other industrialized nations in providing employees protection and rights to care for their families during medical and maternity leave. In fact, the U.S. is one of only a handful of developed countries without a federally-mandated maternity leave policy.
For expecting mothers who work outside the home, it is important that you research the maternity leave options available to you. Because many companies do not provide “paid” maternity leave, it will also be necessary for you to incorporate the financial considerations of your time away from work as well. While some organizations may offer a short paid maternity absence, many employers provide only the mandated benefits defined by the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
The FMLA “entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.”
Medically eligible events protected by FMLA include, the birth of a child, the adoption or foster care of a child, care for one’s spouse experiencing a serious health condition, a serious health condition affecting the employee, or an exigency arising out of a family members active military duty. In vitro fertilization (IVF) remains a gray area within the realm of FMLA protection. Arguably, it is protected by the FMLA and infertility may be protected as a disability under state and federal disability laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
It is important to note that the FMLA law applies only to employers with 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius (such as where the employer has two or more work locations nearby). There may be state or local regulations that govern restrictions on the number of hours worked, part-time or full-time status, and other regulations. Since the Department of Labor guidelines are fairly broad and open to interpretation, it is important to consult with your human resources manager to determine your status before seeking maternity leave or related family medical care time off.
Individual companies and employers implement these guidelines and their policies differently. Some companies allow employees to apply family medical or maternity care against accrued sick time to offset an otherwise unpaid leave.
Still another option for expectant mothers is the use of short term disability insurance. Short Term Disability is sometimes offered by companies for some employees. It may also be possible for workers to purchase additional short-term or long-term disability policies through their workplace. The option to purchase additional short-term or long-term disability coverage is generally offered once a year during the company’s annual open enrollment period.
Review all of your company benefits
A company’s “open enrollment period” is generally part of an annual review process where employees are presented with their options company for benefits and is also the time when employees can make changes to coverages for health care, life and/or disability insurances. Outside of this open enrollment period, most companies will allow for further modifications to policies and benefits packages following a major life change, such as a marriage, divorce, or the birth/adoption of a child.
Despite FMLA protections, some companies do not honor or offer adequate family medical leave. This may be due to sheer ignorance of the existence of these programs, a desire to provide only the minimum coverage required, or a combination of both. Hiring or consulting with an employment law attorney may be worthwhile to help you determine or enforce your rights to family and medical leave.
For additional guidance about the Family Medical Leave Act in Florida you may contact Wilson McCoy, P.A. for employment law, labor practice standards and workplace discrimination lawsuits.