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. Many employers do so voluntarily to attract and retain a competitive workforce.
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 when a mother cannot 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 caregivers for their wives 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.
How Long is Maternity Leave in the USA
How long is the average maternity leave in the United States? No federal law 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 the future.
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 legal protections
- More covered employers
- More eligible employees
- Lengthen the amount of job-protected time off
|State||More Workers||More Time|
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 relating 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. 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