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What Are the Standards of Maternity Leave in the Workplace

Posted by Johnson Memorial Health on Aug 20, 2015

Many women choose to take a few weeks off of work after giving birth to recover and get to know their new little one. Once you find out that you are expecting or maybe even planning to adopt, it's a good idea to find out your companies policy about maternity leave. There are certain laws regarding this type of leave, but the laws may surprise you.


The Family and Medical Leave Act is the set of laws that protect you during your maternity or family leave. These laws provide regulations for your employer to make sure that you are being treated fairly. Not everyone is eligible for maternity leave, so be sure to discuss your plans with your employer.

What is Maternity Leave?

Maternity and/or Family Leave is time off work within the year after you give birth or adopt or foster a child under the age of 16. This time off work allows you to recover and develop a bond with your new child. To be clear, there are other arrangements protected by the Family and Medical Leave act, but our post today is in reference to Maternity Leave. 

This leave can also include time spent on bed rest or time off needed after developing a serious health condition as a result of the pregnancy.

Are All Employees Covered?

No, not all employees are eligible for a maternity leave. As long as you have worked full time for at least 12 months with an employer who has at least 50 employees, you are protected by the regulations in the Family and Medical Leave Act.

How Much Time is Allowed?

You are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during the year that you give birth or adopt a child under the age of 16. You can begin your leave before you give birth, but you will have less time afterward.

Will I Be Paid?

The law only requires that your job is still there when you return, but doesn't require paid leave. In fact, your employer could require that you use all vacation days and paid time off as part of your maternity leave. Rarely, employers will compensate you for some of your time off but that isn't common practice in the United States. 

Will I Be Covered by Insurance?

There will be no interruptions in coverage. You will be covered as if you are still working. You may still have to pay your portion of the premium while you are taking time off. 

Will I Still Have my Job?

Under the law, employees will return to the same job or one that is equivalent. An equivalent job must have the same shift, involve the same responsibilities, be the same skill level, and offer identical pay and benefits.

As in all situations, speak to your employer about your plans. Communication is key. Know your rights as an employee seeking maternity leave. Your employer must follow the minimum guidelines outlined in the Family and Medical Leave Act, but some go above and beyond that. Be sure to make your plans known well in advance so that your employer has time to find a suitable substitute for your absence. 

Topics: Maternity Care