Understanding Your Rights at Work When You’re About to Give Birth

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maternity leave

Given today’s uncertain economy, many of us are forced to work longer hours to provide for our most basic needs, and prove that we are an essential part of the company. But what happens when we get pregnant? The joy of starting a family can often conflict with the desire to give everything to our career. There is no easy answer to this question, but the first step in finding that mythical “balance” involves learning your company’s maternity leave policies.

As maternity leave will vary per company, it is important to air out all your concerns and questions with your company’s human resource head several months before the due date. To make sure you are getting the right information, we have summed up a few of the most important Q and A’s concerning FMLA.

1. What is in store for me when I take my maternity leave?

Also known as family or parental leave, maternity leave is the amount of time given to a mother after giving birth or adopting a child. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, employees covered by the FMLA are assured of job protection during the entire time that they are on leave. It typically allows for a 12 week unpaid period, although there are some generous companies who offer up to 6 of those weeks with full pay. More often than not, employees turn to short term disability, vacation, and sick leave days to receive some sort of money when working for companies that do not carry a provision for paid family leaves.

2. What is short term disability and how does it work?

Short term disability, or STD, provides financial assistance whenever you are unable to work. Under this program, employees who are ill, injured, or have recently given birth are given a portion of their salary to support themselves during these times. It is important to understand that payments are usually a percentage of your normal pay and can vary based on the reason for non-work.

Unfortunately, not all states provide for short term disability. Many large companies offer this as an added benefit to their employees, but you can always turn to private STD insurance if that is not the case at your office. Make sure to plan well ahead of the pregnancy as policies can take time to vest.

3. What if my short-term disability coverage runs out?

Generally, STD allows for 6 weeks paid maternity leave. At this time, you are given the choice to continue with your remaining unpaid maternity leave, or you can opt to go back to work.

4. How do I know if I’m entitled to paid maternity leave?

As HR policies vary per company, it is best to talk to your human resources supervisor to find out if you are allocated paid leave.

As per federal laws, women seeking FMLA leave are given a period of 12 weeks of off-work time to care for their newborn or adopted child. During this time, your position will be protected under the FMLA program, which means that you can easily go back to your previous job as long as it is within that 12 week period.

I have some friends who used their entire twelve weeks, and others who went back to work in as little as 10 days. It is a personal decision that should be carefully considered, and the first step is getting the facts about your company’s policy.

The guest post was written by Brenda. She is a freelance writer for duedatecalculator.org, which offers a free menstrual cycle calendar, as well as a fun (though less scientific) Chinese pregnancy prediction calendar.



  1. Susan Cooper says:

    Having a baby is a wonderful time of a woman’s life. Juggling the pregnancy and career can be a challenge. It is important for a woman to know what her rights are. Awesome post. 🙂

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