September 25, 2021

How to Take Maternity Leave From Your Job

For most people, caring for a newborn baby or new child in the family is a full time job and requires taking some time away from your job–maternity leave, or parental leave. Can you afford to do that? Will your employer allow you to be gone from work for days, possibly weeks?

When you need to take planned or unplanned time off from work to care for a child, there are a few benefit options available to you, as an employee:

  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Your state’s FMLA
  • Short-term Disability
  • Employer’s maternity/parental leave policy, vacation, and other paid time off alternatives.

FMLA and Maternity Leave

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides you with the legal right to take unpaid leave from your job for maternity leave. In today’s diverse workplaces, where men may be required to help out at home and spouse/partner arrangements vary, the term “maternity leave” is often partnered with “paternity leave,” or replaced altogether with “parental leave.” These inclusive terms represent a wide range of individuals and circumstances, including:

  • New mothers
  • New fathers
  • Individuals and couples adopting a child
  • Individuals and couples with a new foster child
  • Anyone playing the role of primary caregiver to a child

Under the federal FMLA guidelines, you may take up to 12 weeks of leave over the course of the first year of a newborn’s life or the first year you have an adopted or foster child in your care. You are not required to take this time all at once and may make arrangements with your employer to be gone from work on parental leave at various times throughout the year.

What you need to know about FMLA:

  • If your employer has 50+ employees they are required to provide Family and Medical Leave, including maternity leave.
  • To qualify for FMLA, you must have been working for your employer for at least 12 months, or clocked 1250 hours of time in one year.
  • Maternity leave under FMLA is unpaid time off, but your employer may allow you to use some of your accrued paid time off or have other time off policies in place that permit you to use vacation time.
  • You are expected to give your employer 30 days notice at least if you will be taking maternity leave under the FMLA.

Other than the federal FMLA your state government also enforces separate FMLA benefits, which could be bundled with enhanced maternity and paternity leave options. But your employer may also have a special maternity or parental leave policy in place that’s even better than the federal FMLA.

Getting Paid While You’re on Maternity Leave

In some cases you may be able to use short-term disability to ensure an income while you are on maternity leave. Remember, under the federal FMLA, your employer is not required to pay you for the time you take away from the job. Check with your employer or human resources department for information on all your maternity leave options.


  1. Karen says:

    What are the regulations after your FMLA is over. Can you be called the Friday before at the end of the day and be told we are laying you off, when they knew you were planning on returning to work the following Monday and already made arrangements with child care for your newborn.

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