Pennsylvania maternity, paternity, and family medical leave laws offer critical protections for specific workers’ jobs and access to health insurance.

However, paid maternity or family leave is not one of these benefits. New parents must find a way to make ends meet while missing at least one income.

Also, not every parent gets the full twelve weeks of unpaid time off under the federal FMLA. Small business employees, part-time workers, and the newly hired must rely on the mercy of their employer.

Paid Maternity Leave in PA

Pennsylvania does not have a paid family leave program like several of its neighboring states. Therefore, parents who work in the Commonwealth must rely on the generosity of their employer or fend for themselves.

Assistance

Taking out a personal loan is the primary form of financial help during unpaid maternity leave. Your infant is a newborn for only a fleeting moment. The extra money can help your family stay current on regular bills while mom cares for and bonds with her baby.

If approved, a lender licensed in Pennsylvania could deposit funds directly into your checking account. Use the money to stay current on regular bills, and hold back a portion of the funds to make the initial monthly payments.

Do not borrow money unless you are sure that you will still have a job when you are ready to return to work. As you will read later in this article, job protections are not guaranteed for every person, or for any length of time.

Short-Term Disability

Short-term disability in PA is the primary way that mothers can enjoy paid maternity leave benefits. Once again, the Commonwealth does not have a mandatory program.

Therefore, women must purchase a policy from a private company before conception. New plans exclude pre-existing pregnancy for at least twelve months.

Existing short-term disability coverage could make claim payments for these typical scenarios.

  • 1st or 2nd-trimester pregnancy complications before birth
  • Recovery from labor and delivery (childbirth)
    • Vaginal birth: 6 weeks
    • C-Section surgery: 8 weeks
  • Postpartum medical complications that delay return to work

Unemployment

Filing an unemployment claim is a poor substitute for paid maternity leave. Primary tenets of Pennsylvania law make this option non-viable while on bed rest, recovering from childbirth, or caring for a newborn.  

  • Terminated employment
  • Physically able to work
  • Actively seeking a new job
  • Available for suitable work

However, new parents who lose their job while absent from work may be eligible for unemployment benefits once they are ready to resume. Those laid off have a clear-cut case, while women who quit must establish good cause reason.[1]

  • Health: A high-risk pregnancy could fall into this category
  • Personal: A seriously ill baby could fit this description

UPMC

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) is an example of a private-sector employer that offers paid parental leave. Employees can receive up to two weeks of wage benefits in the event of birth, adoption or foster care placement.[2]

UPMC cannot be the only private company offering such a program. Employers need to attract and retain a competitive workforce. In this case, a strong economy works better than passing a law.

FMLA Laws in Pennsylvania

The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is the primary law governing how long unpaid legal job protections last. Once again, Pennsylvania does not have a state-based regulation that extends the safeguards to more parents or grants them more time off.

About half of all employees in the Keystone State enjoy these rights.

  • Take unpaid job-protected time off without interference, restraint, or retaliation
  • Have group health insurance maintained under the same terms and conditions
  • Restored to the same or an equivalent position after the 12 weeks

Length

FMLA eligibility (see below) and employer policies determine how long parental leave lasts in Pennsylvania. Your unpaid time off lasts for twelve weeks if qualified. Otherwise, consult the employee handbook at work for your answer – if they have a written policy.

Fathers

PA fathers enjoy paternity leave rights under the federal FMLA – if they work for a covered employer and are an eligible employee. Qualifying fathers can take twelve weeks of unpaid job-protected paternity leave for any of these typical situations.

Fathers are ineligible for short-term disability benefits during paternity leave. Men do not suffer a qualifying medical condition and cannot file a claim.

Teachers

Public and private school teachers in PA automatically qualify under FMLA regardless of the number of fellow educators in a single location (see below).

Therefore, the unpaid job protections last at least twelve weeks for teachers – unless baby arrives close to the beginning or end of the summer recess.

Small Business

PA parents who work for small businesses (less than fifty employees) do not qualify for FMLA legal safeguards. Therefore, the published employee handbook (if there is one) answers the question of how long your time off will last.

State Employees

PA state employees may be eligible for six months of unpaid maternity leave under the Sick, Parental, and Family Care (SPF) policy.[3] The SPF and FMLA rules work together in complicated ways. Contact your state department human resources person or a lawyer for more information.

Eligibility

The FMLA eligibility guidelines in Pennsylvania mirror the universal rules since it is a federal regulation. The Commonwealth has not issued any rules making it easier for parents to meet the criteria.

You must qualify under FMLA to enjoy the twelve weeks of parental leave rights. In other words, you must work for a covered employer and be an eligible employee.[4]

Covered Employers

  • Private-sector employer, with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks
  • Public agency regardless of the number of people it employs
  • Public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of people it employs

Eligible Employees

  • Worked for the employer for at least 12 months
  • Logged at least 1,250 hours of service in the last 12 months
  • Works at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius

Commuters

Commuters who cross Pennsylvania borders for employment illustrate how FMLA and other state-based maternity leave laws work together. The regulations apply in the state where you work, and not where you live.

For example, consider what happens to people residing in these border regions.

  • Philadelphia and Allentown residents who cross the Delaware River to work in New Jersey gain three sets of legal rights that go beyond FMLA: temporary disability, paid family leave, and extended time off for mothers on pregnancy bed rest. Of course, far more NJ residents commute into Philly and lose these benefits.
  • PA residents along the eastern and northern border with New York State also gain access to the NYS paid family leave program, while maintaining FMLA rights.

Footnoted Sources:

[1] PA Unemployment Compensation Voluntary Quit

[2] University Pittsburgh Medical Center

[3] PA Office of Administration

[4] US Department of Labor