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Employee Rights: What to Do If Your Company Doesn't Offer Maternity Leave

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Alice Berg is a career advisor who helps people to find their own way in life. She gives career advice and guidance.

The birth of a child is one of the most anticipated and at the same time most difficult periods in people’s lives. This should come with some time off from work as parents need to adapt to a new routine and recover from childbirth. In the first three months of life, babies need constant attention. Unfortunately, maternity leave in the US still requires negotiation, and federal maternity leave doesn’t provide guaranteed expenses cover, support, and vacation. However, many countries have moved one step ahead. For example, in Norway, parents receive up to two years off work to look after a child. So what should US parents do? First, read the article. Second, decide which of the steps discussed here will work for you.

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What Do Maternity Leave Laws Presuppose?

Most women rely on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which secures their job for up to 12 weeks after childbirth. It means that the job is still waiting for them. However, financial support isn’t provided. Note that to apply for FMLA maternity leave, you have to prove that you’ve worked at the given job for a year and your company has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of the workplace.

Some states have their own laws that extend the amount of unpaid leave or offer partially paid leave. For example, California maternity leave policy offers four options: maternity, disability, family, and reasonable accommodation leave. Other states with paid maternity leave are New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. Check out your state laws to know exactly what you’re eligible for.

Consider Disability Laws

In some cases, disability laws are helpful as they may provide part of your salary (50-100 percent) and some time off due to injury or illness as well as pregnancy. However, the laws vary from state to state, so make sure you looked through what your state’s laws offer. At the same time, if you’re wondering if you can apply for short-term disability insurance for maternity leave if already pregnant? Yes, you can. However, you have to check the state laws again.

How Can You Protect Yourself from Discrimination?

Discrimination has been widely discussed recently. Among all forms of it, violation of pregnant women's rights is probably the most barbarous one. Can you get unemployment while on maternity leave?

Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), employers have no right to make any employment decisions such as hiring or firing workers based on a woman’s pregnancy.

However, preferential treatment and financial support aren’t required by law. In addition, you have to prove the acts of discrimination within a company to make a claim under PDA. For example, other workers getting more time off due to family or health issues, while your baby is left without mom’s care, can be a reason to apply to PDA.

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Options of Maternity Leave for Adoption

As adopting a baby is a serious and thoughtful step, not every family is ready to do that. However, those who are definitely deserve and need some time off from work. FMLA adoption law doesn’t differentiate much between birth and adoptive parents . Thus, you may receive 12 or 6 weeks maternity leave.

Define What You Need

Prepare yourself in advance. Before coming to an agreement with the administration about the pregnancy leave or part-time maternity leave, decide exactly what you need. Think of the time, money, and other benefits. Who is going to earn money for the family while you’re out of work? If you happened to be a single mom, you’ll probably need some financial support. If not, discuss with your husband what the best option of leave for your family is. Mind that under FLMA, men can take some time off as well.

Questions to Ask the HR Manager about Maternity Leave

A job interview is when you can figure out as much as possible about the company you’re planning to work for. Usually, recruiters ask you a bunch of questions regarding your experience and expectations from work. Why not ask them in return? As Linda Joy, HR manager at Skillroads, says:

Every company should appreciate their employees and respect their rights for work-life balance. Thus, it’s should be a normal practice to offer 12 weeks of paid family leave, the possibility to work from home, and short-term insurance to cover any health issues. On the interview, we ask what the candidate expects and honestly describe what our company offers.

Here are examples of questions:

  1. What are the company’s policies regarding parental leave?
  2. Do you offer paid maternity leave and on what conditions?
  3. Is there maternity leave for adoptive parents?
  4. Can I apply for FMLA?
  5. What is the maximum time I can use as maternity leave?
  6. What are the return to work after maternity leave employers rights?
  7. Is it possible to receive some time off for pregnancy?

However, don’t be too straightforward here, since some HR managers may take your questions as a sign that you’re already pregnant.

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What Can Your Employer Provide?

Companies that offer paid maternity leave do exist! Have a look at the policies before searching for external sources of support. In addition, employees frequently save up their sick and holiday time to extend the parental leave. For example, you have three weeks of vacation and three weeks of sick time. Reach out to your employer to find out if you can use those six weeks as part of maternity leave.

How to Negotiate with Your Boss

Start from the conversation with your manager and colleagues before discussing the issue with your boss. There must also be moms and dads in the office who had already been in the same situation. Find out about their experience as much as possible. Once you’ve gathered all the information, frankly estimate your contribution to the company. Think over what value you add to the company, your strengths, and skills that help you stand out and who can take over tasks that need to be done in your absence. Then, politely describe the issue to the employer. Mark Slack, a recruiter at GoodHired shared his opinion:

“Get ready by asking yourself the toughest questions your boss may have and think over possible answers. There’s a chance you will be given some distant work, so make sure you’re ready to handle it. If nothing works out, ask for minimum maternity leave or unpaid maternity leave later.”

Working at Home During Pregnancy

It should be noted that pregnancy is a very unstable period in a woman’s life. While some are lucky to feel quite well, others struggle from various pregnancy complications. If you have any health issues, request for work from home due to pregnancy. Some serious complications are even the reasons to take early maternity leave. Yes, it will definitely take some of your time, but distant work has many advantages as well. First, you will keep up to date with what’s happening within the company. Second, you’ll receive a salary. Third, you’ll definitely feel much better being surrounded by relatives, love, and support.

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Companies With Paid Maternity Leave in the USA

Some US companies set an excellent example of how the organizations should take care of their employees and employees’ families. The benefits they offer make millions of people dream about working for those corporations. By the way, they constitute only 12% of US companies that provide maternity leave options. Who are those heroes of the 21st century? Let’s have a look.

  • Netflix: Netflix starts our chart of the best maternity leave companies offering the longest paid leave out of all tech giants, which is up to 1 year. It covers both adoptive and births parents of any gender.
  • Apple: 32% Apple’s workers are women. As for those who have small children, the company has provided Mom’s Rooms spread across the Santa Clara Valley and other corporate campus locations in addition to 18 weeks paid maternity leave.
  • Airbnb and Amazon: Average maternity leave that those two huge companies give prolongs up to 20 and 22 paid weeks. Amazon presents a baby box, which includes all the basic things a baby needs in the first days of life. Their return to work program, which is known as “Ramp Back”, has proved to be flexible and effective.
  • Microsoft: Another tech giant with amazing family leave opportunities is Microsoft. The employees are provided with 20 weeks of paid time off for birth mothers while fathers, foster, and adopted parents receive 12 weeks of paid leave. Microsoft has also established a policy that gives everyone a chance to look after a sick family member for up to 4 weeks of paid time off.

Overall, make sure you don’t stress much and enjoy the fascinating period in your life. All those troubles with work are temporary, but the happiness of being a parent is endless.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Alice Berg

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