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  • Writer's pictureKirstin Kennedy

Can I Use FMLA for My Maternity Leave?

Pregnancy is an exciting time for soon-to-be moms and dads, but it can also be very stressful when it comes to planning for time off from work during a new baby’s first weeks of life.

With more and more families consisting of two working parents, little time is left to bond with an infant before mom and dad have to head back to work.

Fortunately, time off of work for the birth of a child is a qualifying reason for both men and women to take protected leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

Generally referred to as FMLA, the program allows workers to take unpaid leave from their employment for a specified period of time. Additionally, FMLA ensures that eligible employees are able to retain the same terms and conditions of their employer-provided health insurance for the duration of their leave.

Parents of newborn babies can qualify for up to twelve weeks of leave in a given year, as long as the time off is taken within the first year of the new baby’s life. While the program protects both an employee’s position and health care benefits, the leave is unpaid throughout its duration.

FMLA leave related to the birth of a child is available to both men and women, as well as same-sex couples who have welcomed a child into their family. The leave does not have to coincide with a co-parent’s leave, so long as it is taken within the child’s first year of life.

Similarly, leave availability also applies to new parents who have adopted or fostered a child. The FMLA qualifying leave must be taken within the first year of the adoption or placement of the child.

While not all employers offer a bona fide or paid maternity leave, most businesses are required to offer FMLA to qualifying parents. Covered employers include all government agencies at the local, state, and federal level, as well as all private employers who maintain at least fifty employees for at least twenty weeks in the year of application. The employee seeking leave must have worked 1,250 hours during the year leading up to the requested leave. As a result, FMLA only applies to employees who have worked for the employer for at least one year on a part-time basis or more.

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