The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) provides important unpaid job protection for working women experiencing pregnancy complications, premature birth of an infant, or who want to bond with their baby during her maternity leave.
New and adoptive parents are the most frequent users of this important job protection. But not every employee is eligible under every circumstance. The key FMLA issues are broken down into three parts:
- How FMLA works while pregnant?
- How FMLA works with maternity leave?
- What FMLA rules should I know?
FMLA during Pregnancy
The Family Medical Leave Act is the cornerstone maternity leave law in the U.S. FMLA regulations stipulate that a serious medical condition is one that requires continuous treatment by a healthcare provider. One definition of “continuous treatment” includes any period of incapacity due to pregnancy, or for prenatal care.
Prenatal care is a common requirement for perfectly healthy pregnancies. Women routinely visit their OB/GYN to monitor the health of their baby. Often these appointments are hard to get and require a woman to take time from work to keep these appointments. A woman suffering from severe morning sickness may also qualify for FMLA job protections. See more about intermittent leave below.
FMLA also allows you to take up to 12 weeks of job protected leave during any 12 month period to address your own serious medical condition. If a woman needs to stop working early due to pregnancy complications, this time will count towards the total of 12 weeks.
Any FMLA time used prior to delivery eats into the time available to care and bond with your baby. Several state maternity leave laws may extend the total amount of job protected time away from work. This may happen in one of two ways:
- Extended job protected time running concurrently – a handful of states provide more than twelve weeks of leave.
- Sequentially running job protections – several states have laws limiting the leave to caring for a sick family member. A women experiencing complications of pregnancy can take FMLA for her own serious health condition, and then take state leave to care for and bond with her newborn.
FMLA during Maternity Leave
FMLA provides important maternity leave benefits. Covered employers must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:
- Taking care of your newly born infant
- Placing an adoptive or foster child in your home
- Providing care to a close family member (such as your parent, child, or spouse) with a significant medical problem
Baby Bonding Time
Baby bonding time is covered under FMLA. Both taking care of your newly born infant, and placing an adoptive or foster child in your home can be interpreted as baby bonding time.
FMLA may also cover men seeking job protection during a paternity leave. Men are subject to the same 12 week limitations as women. Men sometimes need to use paternity leave time to care for his wife experiencing a pregnancy disability. It pays to be careful with this time so as not to exhaust paternity leave baby bonding time.
Family Medical Leave Act Rules
The Family Medical Leave Act rules are very long and complex. Legions of lawyers sometimes weigh in with interpretations. Below are some answers to basic questions posed during maternity leave scenarios.
FMLA provides important job protection but it’s all unpaid time away from the job. There are several state maternity leave laws that allow for a form of paid leave.
- Short term disability is mandated in five states: California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.
- Paid Family Leave is mandated in three states: California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
- Paid sick leave is mandatory in a handful of states, but usually does not last twelve weeks.
- Unemployment insurance can now be used for a “compelling family reasons” in twenty two states. While not paid FMLA in name monetary compensation is now available for employees who stop working to care for a sick family member. Many FMLA definitions are very similar.
Health insurance during FMLA is an often overlooked factor for many new parents. FMLA requires that health insurance continue on the same basis as when an employee is working. But there are many tricky consequences lurking beneath the surface. You must pay the premiums with post tax deductions, and must pay careful attention to add your infant to your plan within thirty days.
FMLA Eligibility Rules
FMLA hours worked rules are as follows. To qualify an employee must have worked for the same employer for at least 12 months (not necessarily continuously) and clocked at least 1,250 hours of service (slightly more than 24 hours per week) during the 12 months leading up to FMLA leave.
Covered employer definitions include any organization with 50 or more employees working within a 75-mile radius of the work site must comply with the FMLA.
For a precise answer about whether you qualify for Family Medical Leave Act job protection, you can complete an FMLA eligibility questionnaire. You will get a helpful email response within minutes. Complete your paperwork if you believe you are eligible.
Prenatal care is a common requirement for perfectly healthy pregnancies. Women routinely visit their OB/GYN to monitor the health of their baby. Often these appointments are hard to get and require a woman to take time from work to keep these appointments.
The FMLA allows for intermittent leave for this type of situation. But be careful about using prenatal care with FMLA. You must request permission from your employer to use intermittent or reduced schedule FMLA under this scenario. Your employer has the right to deny your request when requesting intermittent leave for a pregnancy related condition. Also, as your pregnancy progresses you may need to use the time if complications prevent you from working. You only get twelve weeks.