Checking off that preparation to-do list before your baby is born can be overwhelming – especially when your career is involved. Fortunately, there are many things that women can do to protect themselves and their families when facing a leave of absence from work. Read below for my tips on how to maximize your maternity leave:
Sharing the news with your employer
For many women, keeping the news of a positive pregnancy test a secret can be next to impossible! Other women dread the thought of having to tell their boss or coworkers that they are expecting a baby. Either way, unless you are experiencing severe morning sickness or are otherwise having a difficult pregnancy which is impacting your ability to do your job, it is advisable to wait until you know that the pregnancy is healthy before sharing your exciting news at work. Once you are ready to let everyone know that you are pregnant, you should schedule a time with your boss or the Human Resources Department to review the company’s policies regarding leaves in connection with this life event. It is better to get this information as soon as possible so that you have time to understand it and ask questions if you need clarification.
Figuring out how much protected time off you can take
In California, there are several different laws that provide protected time off for women when they are pregnant and after they bring a new baby home. California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (which applies to employers with five or more employees) allows women who are temporarily disabled due to pregnancy or a related condition to take up to four months off from work. In addition, the California Family Rights Act (which applies to employees who satisfy certain criteria and work at a company with fifty or more employees), provides twelve weeks of protected time off for women who are bonding with a new child in their home. Taken together, women who work for large employers may be entitled to up to seven months of protected time off after they have a baby. Women who are experiencing other disabilities (e.g., postpartum depression) may be entitled to additional time off pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act or the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. While all of these laws do provide women with time off from work to recover from childbirth and bond with their baby, none of these laws require employers to offer any paid time off.
Figuring out how much paid time off you are entitled to receive
Although none of the laws that protect women’s jobs while they are on a maternity leave provide for any paid time off, there are several ways in which you can receive some wage replacement during your maternity leave. In California, many women will be entitled to State Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave benefits from California’s Employment Development Department. These benefits are payable for approximately six weeks each and are payable based upon a percentage of your salary (up to a cap of $987 per week). In addition to these benefits from the state, many employers offer short term disability insurance plans, paid parental leave programs, paid sick time, and vacation benefits. When combined together, you will typically be able to piece together at least partial wage replacement during your maternity leave.
Planning for an unpaid leave
New motherhood is stressful enough without adding financial worries on top of your growing list of concerns. One important reason to understand the amount of paid time off to which you are entitled is so that you can figure out in advance how you are going to make ends meet during any unpaid portion of your leave. Whether you decide to forgo a trip during your pregnancy and save up your accrued vacation time or set money aside each month to help cover your expenses during your time off, you will enjoy your leave much more if you have a plan for your finances before the baby arrives.
Going back to work
Once you are back at work, your benefits do not end. In California, your employers must allow you to use up to half of your annual sick leave entitlement to care for a sick child, and certain California employers must also provide a certain amount of time off for parents to take part in educational activities at their child’s school or daycare facility. Make sure that you understand your rights so that you are not leaving money or benefits on the table!
For more information, please do not hesitate to contact Lisa Pierson Weinberger at Mom, Esq.
Note: The information above should not be considered legal advice. Individuals should retain independent counsel for legal advice pertaining to their particular situation. Lisa Pierson Weinberger or Mom, Esq. is not affiliated with Perennial Financial or LPL Financial. LPL Financial and Perennial Financial do not provide Legal advice or services.