Maternity leave marks an incredibly joyful time in a woman’s life. Unfortunately, it can be riddled with stress depending upon the benefits her employer can provide, which tend to vary widely from company to company. There are, however, some basic legal requirements that all employers must adhere to.
Here, we’ll address what an employer’s responsibilities include in terms of maternity leave coverage, as well as how to prepare for the transition as an employer.
Minimum requirements by law.
As an employer, you need to be aware of both federal and state laws regarding maternity leave. Different states will have slightly varying requirements around the subject.
According to Business Management Daily, there is no federal law around a business offering paid time off to an employee on maternity leave. You do, however, need to be in compliance of the Pregnancy Discrimination Law, which “requires you to treat pregnant employees the same as other employees on the basis of their ability or inability to work. That means you must provide the same accommodations for an expectant worker that you do for any employees unable to perform their regular duties.”
Learn more about what constitutes discriminatory behavior here.
You also need to be sure you comply with FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993) rules if you have 50 or more employees, and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) rules if you have 15 or more employees.
FMLA rules state that an employee is due 12 weeks of unpaid leave with benefits (state rules can differ on this), and must be given her original job or one comparable to her previous position upon her return. She is only due these benefits if she has worked at least 1,250 hours for you within the last year.
ADA rules indicate that a normal pregnancy would not be considered a disability. If complications with the pregnancy exist that require your employee to be out for longer than your state allows, your employee may be covered by the ADA for longer.
Some states offer longer maternity leave than FMLA, and provide benefits to smaller businesses. Tennessee requires businesses with eight or more employees to allow for 16 weeks of maternity leave. Know your state’s laws and the exceptions as you write your policy.
As NationalPartnership.org states, “New parents in California can receive 55 percent of their income, up to a weekly capped amount, for up to six weeks.”
Business Management Daily provides free, in-depth manuals describing federal and state maternity requirements, and also provides a sample maternity leave policy.
Transition planning is essential.
As a small business, the absence of just one employee can significantly impact productivity. It’s important that a very clear transition plan is established prior to your employee taking leave for maternity.
– Select someone to handle the work of the employee taking leave, and to be a point of contact in her absence.
– Ensure that customers or regular contacts are alerted in advance of the employee’s maternity leave, and that they know who the new contact person is.
– The employee taking leave should be very clear with whoever is covering her during her maternity leave about the ongoing duties they’ll be responsible for.
– An out-of-office message citing the employee’s return date should be generated within the employee’s email and voicemail, and a backup contact should be provided in both.
– Host a small celebration on your employee’s last day in the office–this sends the message that the business is happy for her and supportive of this major life change. Consider throwing in a diaper bag filled with wipes, diapers, and burp cloths as a gift for good measure. She’ll need it!
In short, while having an employee leave for maternity can be challenging for a business, as an employer, you should be supportive of this wonderful life change. It is a time of great joy for families, and they deserve the time off (legally, but also generally speaking) to spend with their new baby.
Be sure that you understand the maternity benefits you are legally obligated to provide your employees with–and anything above and beyond that will be greatly appreciated by your employees.
Image source: SmartPhotoStock
Image by Smart Photo Stock
Cara Aley is a freelance writer who covers a variety of topics ranging from digital marketing strategy to strategies to business tips for entrepreneurs. Find Cara on Twitter @caraaley