Investigating Maternity Leave Options

If you plan to return to work after the baby is born, you will want to investigate your options for maternity leave. There are a few sources of paid or unpaid leave, depending on your employer’s policies, federal or state law and how long you have been at your job. Start early to prepare for your leave and financial needs. This way, you will be able to relax and enjoy your baby when the time comes.

Inquire about your company’s policies regarding maternity leave. Speak with other co workers who have had babies while working for the company. Talk to your human resources representative for information about what is available. Have your husband inquire about his company’s policies. If he has paid paternity leave, you may want him to take it with you or save it for when you return to work. This will give the baby more time with one of you.

The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 gives employees the right to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a family member. This includes newborn or adopted children. To qualify under FMLA, you must work for either an employer with more than 50 employees or a federal, state or local governmental agency. In addition, you must have been at your company for at least one year and have worked a minimum of 1250 hours in the past year.

There are other sources of leave that may be available to you. These include:

* Paid vacation time: You may be able to use accrued vacation time during maternity leave. This will keep some money coming in while you are home.

* Paid sick leave or medical leave time: Some companies offer this benefit. Ask your HR representative for information.

* If you are a member of a union, talk to your union rep. Some unions offer maternity leave benefits.

* State laws regarding maternity leave.

* Short term disability leave. Some states offer these benefits and you may be entitled to some paid leave. The following states offer short term disability for maternity leave: California, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Hawaii.

Your human resources representative is a great source of information about what is available through your company and in your state. If some paid leave is offered, ask for how long and at what percentage of your full pay. Some offer 2/3 or 75% of your salary. Also, ask about benefits. If you are taking an unpaid leave, you will likely have to pay your portion of your benefits. Find out how much this will cost and how it should be paid to avoid potential problems later.

Gather all your necessary documentation while you are still pregnant. Find out what forms are needed and fill them out ahead of time. Keep copies of everything you turn in for your own records. Some documentation needed may include:

* Application for Family Medical Leave Act. This is available from your human resources representative.

* Vacation request form

* State leave application or short term disability paperwork

* Letter from your doctor or any forms the doctor needs to complete. Get these early and take them to a prenatal visit for the doctor to fill out.

* Letter from your boss, approving your leave

By planning ahead, you will be able to take advantage of any leave available to you. Getting everything ready in advance will prevent the last minute stress. You will be able to relax and enjoy your new baby.

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About Pattie Hughes

Pattie Hughes is a freelance writer and mother of four young children. She and her husband have been married since 1992. Pattie holds a degree in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University. Just before her third child was born, the family relocated to Pennsylvania to be near family. She stopped teaching and began writing. This gives her the opportunity to work from home and be with her children. She enjoys spending time with her family, doing crafts, playing outside at the park or just hanging out together.