Oooh, Baby, Baby – A Beginner’s Guide to Maternity Leave

January 18, 2016  |  By

“Are you pregnant?” Add this to the list of questions that all but a precious few may reasonably ask.

Since I’m a lawyer, I feel entitled…to ask in order to clear up some common misconceptions about workplace protection and paid leave for moms-to-be and any spouse or significant other who is considering taking time off for the birth or adoption of a child.


“Three months of paid vacation, here I come. Right?” Not so fast. You may have heard colleagues reference the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (aka FMLA) as the reason why they plan to take 12 weeks off in the middle of busy season. Oftentimes though people are misinterpreting their employer’s individual policies with the federal law. Consider the following questions:

  • Does your company have at least 50 employees?
  • Does your company have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of where you work?
  • Have you worked at your company for at least 12 months?
  • Have you worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months preceding when you plan to take leave?

At the risk of resembling a Cosmo quiz, unless you can answer yes to all of the above, you are not protected by FMLA.

Baby I Got Your Money

For those fortunate enough to have all yesses, congratulations, your job will be protected for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month time period. The careful reader may have noticed I wrote unpaid leave. This is because FMLA offers workplace protection which is unfortunately not synonymous with paid-leave. In fact, out of 193 countries in the United Nations, only a small handful do not have a national paid parental leave law: New Guinea, Suriname, a few South Pacific island nations, and the United States.

The good news?

Your company may still offer job security and/or paid leave (shout-out to Vela Wood), just understand that they are choosing to offer these benefits out of the goodness of their heart and not because of a federal mandate. Moreover, many employees may utilize short-term disability and accumulated paid time off to patch together a leave package that resembles industry darlings. If all of the above leaves you feeling a little overwhelmed, moms, know that your work outside of the home is benefitting your children.

Posted in: Employment

About the Author(s)

Vela Wood