Determining when you plan on taking maternity leave can be an overwhelming process since you don’t know the exact date of your baby’s arrival. However, it is very important that you find out what your rights and benefits are early in your pregnancy. The best place to find out your maternity rights are is to refer to your companies employee handbook, to determine if they have a policy for maternity leave. If there isn’t a policy in the employee handbook it is important that you talk to human resources as soon as possible. Don’t wait to long to talk to them because there is paperwork that often requires your doctors signature and it can take some time to gather the documents. Once you have the proper documents filled out, you need to return them to the human resources department as soon as possible so that they can process the documents.
Disclosure: This post is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact your company’s human resources department. The opinions reflected in this post are my own and based upon my own experience with maternity leave.
Federal Medical Leave Act Policy
Don’t worry if your company doesn’t have a maternity policy, moms who live in the United States are covered by FMLA (Federal Medical Leave Act) unless your company offers a short term disability option. If you plan on using the federal or state mandated leave, find out what the exact laws are to determine how much leave that you are entitled too. FMLA allows you the ability to take off time from work to care for a newborn or an adopted child. The US law states that parents can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to care for an immediate family member. There are a few rules that you must meet in order to qualify for FMLA in the US. FMLA secures your job or a related position, for the entire 12 weeks and your employer can’t replace you or fire you.
- Do you work for a company that has 50 or more employees in a 75 mile radius or do you work for a public agency at the federal, state, or local level?
- Have you worked for your current employer at least 12 months?
- Have you worked more than 1,250 hours in the last 12 months?
When Should I Turn in my Leave Paperwork?
You should ask this question to your human resources department to determine when they require your leave paperwork to be turned in by. If they don’t have a written policy, I would plan on filing the paper work sometime during your second trimester so that all of your paperwork is in order in case you deliver early. If you don’t have your paperwork in, you will have to worry about getting it turned in rather quickly or your spouse will have to do it for you if you are in the hospital so that you don’t get in trouble for an unauthorized absences. Turning in the paper work early will also reduce your stress and you are covered if you go into labor sooner than your due date.
What Happens If I Plan on Quitting my Job Once My Maternity Leave is Over?
If you are planning on quitting your job after you have taken your maternity leave, you need to find out if there are any requirements or restrictions if you are given paid maternity leave, especially, if you are considering quitting your job once your maternity leave is over. Some companies make your pay back your maternity leave benefits while others don’t, so it is important to find out exactly how your company handles this type of situation. Don’t rely on what other employees say or allow them to give you their interpretation of your companies policy; instead, ask human resources directly. You can ask them an open what if question without telling them that you are going to quit your job; if possible, ask to see a written policy and make a copy if possible.
Do Make Copies of All of Your Medical Leave Documents
Any paperwork that you give your employer, you should always keep a copy of the documents in case they are lost or misplaced. This will save you the hassle of getting another set of documents from your human resources department to take to your doctor for a second time. Having a set of documents also protects you in the event that any issues that arise. Make sure that you print out any email correspondence from your boss or human resources, if it relates to your maternity leave. Also, keep a copy of your notes from conversations that you have had regarding your maternity leave. Keep this copy in a file folder and take it home with you. This is for your protection in case the company decides to let you go while on maternity leave.
Enjoy your time off with your new baby!
Does you company offer paid maternity benefits?