We all have gone through it – we’ve all had kids while working! I’m 27 weeks along and I’m looking into maximizing my maternity leave because I want to stay home as long as possible for the benefit of myself and the baby. However, the maternity leave laws in California are confusing and so are my company’s. I’m sure I’ve lost hundreds of dollars and days of leave because I didn’t fully understand our benefits. I’m also sure that our HR department doesn’t fully understand it. I mean, you could probably have a full time HR representative that specializes in maternity and paternity leave policies in all companies. But…I digress.
Here is a list of state statutes for maternity leave laws: http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/labor/maternity-leave-state-statutes.aspx.
They are all confusing and I’m envious of many of the other states that have better maternity leave policies than California BUT it’s better than nothing.
After speaking to my HR department, this is what I’ve learned (remember that not all of these will apply to you so you should speak to your HR or a lawyer):
- Some companies don’t consider you disabled until you have your baby which means you won’t receive disability benefits until the birth.
- Your job protection rights include: Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL), Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and California Family Rights Act (CFRA).
- FMLA and CFRA do not run concurrently.
- The PDL entitlement is up to 4 months (or 17 weeks plus 3 or 88 working days). Of this 4 month entitlement, 12 weeks is concurrent with FMLA. (Source: California Chamber of Commerce – Controlling Family Medical Leave, p. 59)
- The CFRA entitlement, taken after a PDL/FMLA leave, is 3 months. This can be taken for baby bonding purposes but not during pregnancy related disability. (Source: California Chamber of Commerce – Controlling Family Medical Leave, p. 59) It is my understanding that you do not need to take this all at once – you may spread it out over the FIRST year of the baby’s life.
- Other benefit (not job protected): Paid Family Leave (PFL) – you can use this during any unpaid portion of your job protected rights.
The source that I’ve referenced above (California Chamber of Commerce) also provides some handy timelines that show how these different programs work together. I’ve copied them below.
Vaginal Delivery (*CFRA does not run concurrently with FMLA – the chart is assuming that you will no longer be disabled after your 6 weeks which would allow CFRA to kick in.)
C-Section Delivery (*CFRA does not run concurrently with FMLA – the chart is assuming that you will no longer be disabled after your 8 weeks which would allow CFRA to kick in.)
And What about Dad?
Well, it looks like your husband may be able to take advantage of Paid Family Leave (see question #12!). If you can afford it (we can’t), your husband may also be entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. Other states may have better benefits so don’t forget to check those out!
Things to Consider
- If you are on leave, will you have the funds to pay for your health insurance?
- Will your employer require that you use your vacation time before taking advantage of these benefits?
- Try to “save” as much sick time or vacation time as possible to tend to the baby should s/he get sick and you have to take days off of work.
- What type of company benefits (i.e. earning vacation, earning sick days, health care, dental) will remain in tact/continue to accrue while you’re on leave?
- Which company benefits will be impacted (i.e. annual bonuses, salary, performance)?
- Your company may not coordinate with your State’s benefits so there is a chance you will be overpaid. In the end, you will owe your company money.
- Start a savings account now to help cover the cost of unpaid leave.
NOTE: The information above is what I learned by doing Google Searches and what my company’s HR gave me that was generic. I AM NOT AN EXPERT ON THESE BENEFITS.
- National Partnerships for Women and Families
- FMLA Eligibility
- Paternity Leave Breakdown
- Milk Your Benefits – I recently spoke to Lauren about my benefits and she had a wealth of information, mapped out my timeline and really gave me the confidence that I would get to spend more time than expected with our baby boy. I highly recommend her assistance and guidance even if you feel like you fully understand. Lauren can help you with your specific company dynamics (e.g. you and your boss don’t get along, your company won’t allow you to go out) and the details of their leave policies. After speaking with her, I feel like I understand how it all works out and that I will be able to maximize the benefits offered to me.
What have you learned about your state’s maternity leave policy? Share your information here because I’m sure it’ll help other mamas!