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Maternity Leave By Any Other Name Is Just as Sweet: What to Know About Parental Leave

November 5, 2018 | By Ana Elliot

The holiday season is one of coming together with friends and family. If the holiday music and festive spirit has got you thinking about family and the size of yours, then this article might be for you. Today, we discuss maternity leave, also known as family leave or parental leave. Maternity leave is something that many parents think and worry about. Time spent with newborn and newly adopted children in the beginning is crucial for development. New mothers also need time to heal. So, what do you need to know about parental leave? We’ve got some information that should help get you on your way to understanding and preparing for maternity/parental leave.

What the Government Gives You

You might be wondering how much maternity leave you are afforded by the government, and sadly, we don’t have great news. Unlike many first world countries, the US does not have a nationwide maternity leave policy. There is no minimum required by the federal government and most parents rely on FMLA – the Family and Medical Leave Act. The FMLA protects parents from losing their job if they take 12 weeks of maternity/paternity leave. It also offers this same protection for parents who have newly adopted babies. This policy does not, however, require the leave be paid and it does not protect a huge percentage of the population. The FMLA only applies to parents that work within 75 miles from their company. Your employer must also have over 50 employees and you need to have worked there for at least 1,250 hours in the previous year. This limits many men and women who do not fit those criteria. You can check the rules and regulations of the FMLA here.

What States Give You

The benefits provided by states range from none to quite comprehensive. While the federal government provides no required paid leave, some do – by some, we mean very few. Three in fact: California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are the only states that require paid parental leave. New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and Rhode Island have disability laws that extend to cover pregnancy and the birth of a child. While this might feel bleak, 25 states have extended FMLA coverage. This extra coverage can come in the form of an extension of the time allowed for leave (up to 16 weeks) or less strict requirements for benefits.

What Does Your Work Give You?

Companies vary across the country. What they provide is varied. Only 39% of workers in the US have access to paid maternity/family leave. Some employers provide partial pay during family leave. Others provide, well, whatever they are inclined to. The best way to figure out what your work will provide is twofold: first, speak with those in your company whom you know took maternity/paternity leave and see what they say. Learning what was done before can be a great help. The second step is to speak with your employer about what they offer. Some employers will allow you to use vacation and sick time to help cover your maternity leave. While using paid vacation time might be a smart idea, saving some sick days for when you return to work is probably for the best. The health of children can be unpredictable, and you never want your child to be sick while you are stuck at work! Once you know you what is provided to you, you can move to the next step.

Budgeting for Your Leave

So, you’ve looked into what the federal government, state government, and your employer will provide for you. Now it is time to plan. As you prep for your coming bundle of joy and put money aside for cribs and diapers, also put some money aside for your maternity leave. If your co-parent will still be working, you just need to cover half, but it’s still important to be prepared. You don’t want to find yourself at home with a baby, and researching installment loans after a month! Calculate your monthly expenditures pre-baby plus an estimate of extra costs post-baby and start setting aside to make sure you have enough during the maternity leave.