Maternity Leave

What is Maternity Leave?
You’ve heard the term, of course, but what exactly is it?

Unless you’ve already been through maternity leave, the specifics might be a little hazy. We’re here to help clear things up.

Maternity leave is the period of time when a mother stops working because she is about to have — or has just had (or adopted) — a baby. While we most commonly hear the term “maternity leave,” sometimes it’s is called family leave, parental leave or paternity leave, because it may apply to not only mothers, but also to fathers or domestic partners.

Your workplace may or may not have an official maternity leave policy, and even if it does, it unfortunately may not be paid. If it is paid, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fully paid; some companies offer partially paid leave or a program that may technically be a short-term disability (STD) policy that pays you during your leave of absence.

What Maternity Leave Rights Do I Have?
Getting informed about your maternity leave rights is particularly important if you live in the U.S. Why? Unlike women in virtually all other developed countries in the world, American women who take maternity leave are not guaranteed any payments from the federal government.

In fact, most American women receive no pay during their maternity leave and instead rely on federal law (called the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA) to protect their job for up to 12 weeks after a birth or adoption. This essentially means that the woman is entitled to return to her position after a period of absence without penalty in pay or position.

To be clear, FMLA does not guarantee a woman paid leave, and it doesn’t apply to every person. FMLA protects you if you work at a company with more than 50 employees within 75 miles of your workplace and you have worked there for a minimum of 1,250 hours during the prior year. If you have a spouse working at the same company, and he or she also tries to qualify for leave under FMLA, things are more complex — see more details on that and other FMLA rules and exceptions here.

In addition to checking out this federal law, see whether you live in one of the 25 states that have supplemented FMLA protections either by providing longer leave (up to 16 weeks), lowering the minimum employer size to below 50, or even requiring private employers to pay for maternity leave (up to some cap).

Still, with the exception of 3 states — California, New Jersey and Rhode Island — state-protected maternity leave is still unpaid leave. Four states have disability laws that cover a woman’s pregnancy and the birth of a child, and you can learn about those states’ laws here: New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and Rhode Island.

While the specifics vary by state, these disability laws typically protect an employee’s salary (usually partially, and up to a certain maximum cap) by requiring employers to take out STD insurance policies that cover a woman’s wages during her leave of absence. Want more detail on your state’s maternity leave laws? Get more info here.

Employers in the Province of New Brunswick shall not:
a) refuse to employ or hire; or
b) dismiss, suspend or lay off an employee who is pregnant for reasons due solely to her pregnancy.

A pregnant employee wishing to take maternity leave must:
a) advise her employer four (4) months prior to the probable delivery date or as soon as her pregnancy is confirmed, whichever is later; and
b) provide her employer with a medical doctor’s certificate confirming pregnancy and the probable delivery date; or
c) in the absence of an emergency, give her employer two (2) weeks notice prior to commencing her maternity leave.

Employers shall grant an employee maternity leave without pay of seventeen (17) weeks or a shorter period if the employee wishes at any time beginning no earlier than eleven (11) weeks prior to the probable delivery date.

An employer may, where no alternate employment is available, require a pregnant employee to begin a leave of absence without pay when she can no longer reasonably perform her duties, or the performance of her work is materially affected by her pregnancy.

Such employer imposed leave of absence is in addition to any maternity leave to which the employee is entitled under the Employment Standards Act as a result of her pregnancy.

Employers shall not dismiss, suspend or lay off an employee during the maternity leave or for reasons arising from the leave alone.

Employers shall permit an employee, upon the end of the leave, to resume work in the position held immediately before the beginning of the leave or an equivalent position with no decrease in pay.

An employee granted a leave of absence under the Employment Standards Act is deemed to have been continuously employed with the same employer during the leave of absence

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