- On April 27, 2015
Working Mothers Expecting a New Baby
Until the 1990s, women had to worry about taking time away from their job in order to start a family.
However, that all changed with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993. The law mandates that employees can take up to 12 weeks annually of unpaid leave for medical reasons, including the birth or a child or even medical complications due to pregnancy.
The FMLA only is applicable to organizations with 50 or more workers all living in a 75-mile radius, except for government agencies and public schools, which are covered despite the amount of workers on staff.
In order to qualify for FMLA pregnancy leave, an employee needs to have worked for the company for a minimum of 12 months, which need not be consecutively. The worker must also have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours inside the last 12 months in order to be eligible for FMLA leave.
Along with taking off for the birth of or bonding with a newborn, leave that falls within the FMLA can be taken for the placement of an adoptive child into a worker’s home or placement of a foster child. A total of 12 weeks of FMLA pregnancy leave can be used per 12-month period, but must be taken as a continual block of leave. It should be noted that some states have approved legislation that lowers the threshold for leave coverage.
Stipulations Regarding FMLA Pregnancy Leave
While the FMLA was designed to benefit the most people possible, there are a few cases in which 12 weeks of unpaid leave might be denied or modified at the employer’s direction.
If a worker is in the top 10 percent of wage earners at their organization and the company can prove that their absence would trigger substantial financial harm, the company isn’t mandated to permit 12 weeks of unpaid leave or keep the job open. If the new parents both work for the same company, they are eligible for a total a 12 weeks to be with their new child, not 12 weeks each.
If their terms of employment dictate it, workers may need to spend all their accrued vacation days, sick leave, and personal days, which may be subtracted from the 12 weeks of FMLA pregnancy leave. If a worker is supplied a paid maternity leave, their company may necessitate that the time period of paid maternity leave count toward the 12 weeks allocated under the FMLA. A few companies may let workers use the full 12 weeks of FMLA along with any paid leave given.
Workers may use their 12-week FMLA and pregnancy leave when they want during the first year following their child’s birth or adoption, provided that the company allows it. Consequently, all 12 weeks do not have to be utilized at once. A worker could decide to spread FMLA pregnancy leave out over a child’s first year by using a few weeks at a time or by reduction of normal working hours. Also, FMLA benefits can be used while carrying a child if a doctor has put the worker on bed rest or if serious complications arise. It should be noted that providing a specific medical status isn’t necessary when trying to justify the need for FMLA pregnancy leave.
FMLA Requirements for Employers
Organizations must put up a general notice detailing the FMLA's provisions and facts regarding steps for filing a claim under the FMLA. This notice should be in a high-traffic area where it can be seen by workers and potential applicants. Under the laws, this posted fact sheet should include more information concerning the definition of a significant health condition as defined by the law – as well as both company and worker responsibilities.
Organizations must also have the information in worker handbooks or other written guidelines or manuals detailing worker benefits and leave conditions. Furthermore, under the guidelines, a company without a handbook or written guidance is mandated to give this information to new workers upon hiring.
A company must also supply a worker with a notice regarding their specific expectations and obligations linked with the FMLA-pregnancy leave. Among other facts included in this notice, the company must notify the worker if they will be asked to supply validation of the FMLA-qualifying reason for leave and the employee’s ability to substitute paid leave. This notice should also supply conditions associated with paid-leave replacement and the employee’s right to unpaid FMLA leave if those conditions are not satisfied.
If the information contained in the notice of rights and responsibilities is changed by the government, the company should notify the worker of such modifications as soon a possible. Organizations are also required to readily answer questions from workers regarding their rights and responsibilities.
Under FMLA guidelines, a company must inform a worker if leave will be designated as FMLA leave within five working days of finding out, except for in unusual circumstances. The worker must also express if paid leave will be substituted for unpaid FMLA leave and find out if the company will ask for a fitness-for-duty validation to come back to work.
If possible, a company must notify a worker of the amount of hours, days or weeks that will be counted as the employee’s FMLA leave entitlement. If it is not possible to supply the amount of hours, days, or weeks that will be considered as FMLA leave, a company must offer this information upon request by the worker, but no more frequently than every 30 days and only if leave was taken in that period.
The federal law also acknowledges that company have a lot on their plate, as the FMLA allows for retroactive designation of FMLA leave if a company does not designate leave in a timely manner. The company may be responsible, however, if the worker can reveal that they have suffered harm or injury on account of the failure to timely specify the leave as FMLA. Furthermore, a worker and company may consent to retroactively designating an absence as FMLA-protected.