Many employers grant time off to employees who are welcoming a new child into their home. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) regulates the amount of leave time a parent may take before, during and after the birth of a child. While this set of laws does not apply to every employer in the nation, many excluded companies specify leave policies in line with the FMLA. Employers who write their own policies must adhere to the guidelines provided for employees in the policies and procedures documentation.
1. Are Workers Entitled to Time Off Before and After the Birth of a Child?
Federal law guarantees time off for many, but not all workers. In order to come under the umbrella of the federal FMLA regulations, a company must employ at least 50 people. If this is the case, then the worker may be entitled to up to 12 weeks during the 12-month period following the birth of his or her child. In order to be eligible, the employee must meet several other guidelines:
- The person must have worked for the company for at least 12 months, although they do not have to be consecutive.
- The employee must have logged at least 1,250 hours during the previous year.
Women may also take time before childbirth for pregnancy-related, serious health conditions. When a woman’s doctor deems it necessary for her to take medical leave, she will be entitled to the time granted under FMLA. If a parent desires to return to work on a flexible or part-time schedule using FMLA leave following the birth of his or her child, he or she may do so at the employer’s discretion.
States may have more stringent guidelines for parental leave, and when state law allows for more benefits, it takes precedence over federal regulations. Laws and regulations vary greatly by state.
2. Can Employees Take Time Off if Their Child is Adopted or Placed Through Foster Care?
FMLA leave benefits are not limited to those who welcome biological children into their home. Families that adopt or choose to foster a child through their state’s foster care system also retain the same rights as other couples.
3. Can Men Have Time Off When a Child is Born?
Gone are the days of leave benefits only for women. Under the FMLA, fathers are granted the same leave allowance as mothers. This time off is commonly referred to as “parental leave,” and each parent is entitled to 12 weeks under federal regulations. If both people are employed by the same company, the employer may restrict them to a combined total of 12 weeks of time off. When both parents work for the same company and the mother has serious health conditions related to the pregnancy, federal law expands to allow each individual their respective 12 weeks of leave.
4. Are Employers Required to Pay Workers for Maternity or Parental Leave?
Federal law does not require employers to pay absent employees for their time off. However, vacation and other paid personal time may be used in conjunction with FMLA time to allow employees compensation while they are on leave. Some states, such as California, have additional guidelines regarding paid parental leave and provide for reduced-compensation benefits for female workers who give birth. Companies may write their own more lenient policies regarding paid leave but must stick to any published guidelines.
5. Are Employers Required to Hold an Employee’s Job While on Maternity Leave?
All workers protected under the FMLA are entitled to return to their same job or a job with equal benefits and pay when their leave is over. State laws may be more inclusive, so be sure to check regulations in your area. The FMLA also prohibits discrimination against pregnant women.
Understanding and enforcing the laws regarding parental leave usually results in a better workplace and higher productivity for employees and employers alike.
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