In Alabama, and elsewhere in the U.S., “maternity leave” can vary widely by company. If you’re an expectant mother, it’s important to fully understand your workplace’s time-off policies so you can fully recover after delivery and have enough time to bond with your new baby.
The good news is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects new mothers who need this time at home to recover from the pregnancy and help their baby have a healthy first few months of life rather than worry about employment rights.
What is the FMLA?
The Family and Medical Leave Act requires that employers provide their employees with up to 12 weeks’ worth of leave to care for themselves or a family member with a serious medical condition. This applies to expectant mothers in the form of pregnancy or maternity leave, but it also could apply to other medical conditions.
Does FMLA Apply to Pregnancy Leave?
The FMLA classifies the birth of a child, along with complications related to childbirth or pregnancy, as a serious health condition. Postpartum conditions, parental leave for childcare, and adoption may also qualify. For pregnancy, there are three different types of leave under FMLA:
1. Pregnancy Leave
Employees may use FMLA for pregnancy if any complications during the pregnancy present serious health conditions. If a doctor can determine that bed rest is necessary, an expectant mother’s time off could begin before the child is even born.
2. Parental Leave
Any parent, whether they were the one giving birth or not, may use FMLA for leave after the
birth of the child, which can be taken at any point during the baby’s first year of life. This also applies to the first year after a child is adopted.
3. Intermittent Parental Leave
These 12 weeks do not have to be taken consecutively. New parents can take these weeks of leave intermittently throughout that first year to work part time.
What Are the Qualifications for FMLA?
You qualify for FMLA if you work for a company that employs 50 or more people working within 75 miles of their workplace. Federal, state, and local government employees also qualify. The employee must have worked at their job for at least one year and must have a minimum of 1,250 hours under their belt during those 12 months. If you meet all of those qualifications, you are eligible to take advantage of FMLA.
How Does FMLA Protect New Mothers?
While often unpaid, FMLA requires that employers provide at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave for expecting parents. The law stipulates that the employee must be able to return to their job (or at least a similar job) after that 12-week period has expired, and they must receive the same salary, benefits and working conditions as before the pregnancy.
It’s important to note that employers are not legally obligated to provide paid pregnancy or parental leave. Depending on your company’s policies, you may have to use a combination of sick leave and vacation hours in order to receive a paycheck during your leave. Some companies also offer short-term disability, but that would only cover childbirth and postpartum recovery time.
Can I Be Denied FMLA for Pregnancy?
An employer cannot deny a parent leave under FMLA as long as all necessary paperwork and FMLA certification are in order.
If you feel as though your employer is not adhering to FMLA, you may need an employment lawyer. King Simmons Attorneys in Birmingham are happy to help with any such issue in an effort to give new mothers the legal protection they need. We specialize in employment law, so can fight on your behalf if you face discrimination in the workplace or have been wrongfully terminated.