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The maternity leave laws in the United States are like a box of chocolates.
You never know how much money you will get – if any at all. Plus, you never know how long your job protections will last – if at all.
Both federal and state laws combine with company policies to create a mish-mash of results. There is no average length or typical amount of paid time off.
Instead, parents have to rely on good fortune. If you work enough hours for the right employer located in the right state – you are in and enjoy bonus parental leave benefits. However, parents can just as easily find themselves with zero weeks of unpaid time off.
Paid Maternity Leave in the USA
Paid maternity leave does exist in the United States. Do not believe what you might read elsewhere. Six states make this benefit mandatory for most workers in private industry. Plus, many employers do so voluntarily to attract and retain a competitive workforce.
Requesting a maternity leave loan is the primary alternative for parents in one of the forty-four states that do not have a legal requirement, or do not work for an employer compelled to become generous by market forces.
Paid Leave by State
A list of paid maternity leave laws by the state requires a breakdown of three possible regulations, which could apply. Each state determines whether to offer these public programs and sets the rules for how each works.
- Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) replaces a portion of income during the time a mother is unable to work because of a pregnancy-related medical condition. This paid maternity leave element could include time off before her due date because of complications, and her recovery for labor and delivery.
- Paid Family Leave (PFL) replaces a portion of income when a new parent stops working to bond with his or her newborn baby. Fathers can also qualify as a caregiver for his wife experiencing complications before birth.
- State Unemployment Insurance (SUI) never works as a substitute for paid parental leave. You must be physically able and available for work to qualify. However, many parents lose their jobs after an extended work absence and could be eligible in the future – if their state has lenient rules.
Paid Leave by Company
A short list of paid maternity leave benefits by company illustrates the diverse nature of our country. Also, the list shows how larger companies needing to attract and retain highly skilled employees are more likely to offer the best employee benefit programs.
- Amazon offers a range of options for parents prior to, and following, the birth or adoption of a child.
- Google offers 12 weeks for fathers and 18 weeks of paid time off for new mothers.
- Facebook provides four months of paid time off to all employees who are new parents.
- Walmart offers 10 weeks of maternity and 6 weeks of paternity (parental) leave for full-time hourly workers and salaried employees.
- Ikea provides 4 months of paid parental time off to co-workers who are expanding their families.
- Starbucks eligible employees receive 6 weeks of paid leave for birth, adoption, and placement of a foster child.
- Netflix policy is: “take care of your baby and yourself.” New parents generally take 4-8 months.
- Bank of America employees can take up to 16 weeks of paid maternity, paternity and adoption leave after working one year for the bank.
- Federal Employees: New mothers and fathers may take at least six to eight weeks of sick leave, followed by additional time to bond with their child through annual time off or the FMLA.
Of course, the policy of your own employer is of greatest interest to you. Unfortunately, many smaller businesses cannot afford the generous benefits of the organizations listed above. Check your employee handbook for more details.
How Long is Maternity Leave in the USA
How long is the average maternity leave in the United States? There is no federal law that applies equally to every person across the country. Therefore, a typical figure does not give you a very helpful answer because of the very wide range of possible outcomes.
First, every parent’s experience is different.
- Long pregnancy disability work absence before birth
- Unique recovery periods after labor and delivery
- Vaginal birth lasts 6 weeks
- C-section delivery lasts 8 weeks
- Premature birth extends the needed time
- Varying times to extend time due to postpartum problems
- Men take on care-taker roles during paternity leave
Second, federal, and state laws apply unevenly.
- FMLA covers less than 58% of workers
- Only 16 states have supplemental regulations
- ADA may cover an extended work absence
Third, the equation could change in 2019 or 2020
FMLA Maternity Leave
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a nationwide law that provides unpaid job protections lasting for up to 12-weeks for men and women who qualify. Therefore, the typical maternity leave under FMLA is somewhere between 0 and 12 weeks. If 55% of workers are eligible, the weighted average works out to 6.6 weeks.
These figures do not answer how long your maternity or paternity leave will last. You must meet two sets of criteria to enjoy these legal rights.
- Covered Employers
- Employ 50 or more employees for at least 20 workweeks
- One or more worksites within 75 miles
- Eligible Employees
- Worked for that employer for at least 12 months
- Worked for at least 1,250 hours over the 12 months
- Works at a location with 50 or more employees within 75 miles
Many states have laws that supplement the Federal FMLA that can affect how long your maternity leave lasts. The state-based regulations alter the equation in at least one of two ways – for people who work in that particular state.
- Expand the number of workers enjoying the legal protections
- More covered employers
- More eligible employees
- Lengthen the amount of job-protected time off
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ADA Maternity Leave
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that could affect how long maternity leave lasts. The (ADA) has return-to-work provisions that can relate to pregnant and postpartum women.
The regulation prohibits discrimination based on disability in employment. Pregnancy complications (not normal pregnancy) meet the standard for legal protections under ADA.
The ADA requires that covered employers (15 or more employees) provide reasonable accommodations to applicants and employees with disabilities. A reasonable accommodation can include making modifications to existing leave policies. An employer must consider providing unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation so long as it does not create an undue hardship for the company.
Keep in mind that these rules apply only if you meet the ADA disability definition.
- Physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
- Record of such an impairment
- Being regarded as having such an impairment
2019 & 2020
The length of time that maternity leave lasts in the USA could change if Congress passes a new law and the president signs the bill. However, this is unlikely to happen during 2019 or 2020 while the Republicans hold a majority in the Senate and control the Whitehouse.
- Donald Trump proposed 6 weeks of paid parental leave via unemployment insurance in the 2018 budget. However, Congress did not include this benefit in any spending resolutions.
- Ivanka Trump worked with Marco Rubio on a similar bill during the same timeframe. However, that bill has not passed as of early 2019.
- Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanagh are newly appointed Supreme Court justices and are unlikely to rule on any related cases.