Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) employees can take time off from work without pay for pregnancy- and family-related health issues. The act provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that you can keep your health insurance benefits during the leave. To qualify, you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months, worked at least 1,250 hours during the last 12 months, and worked at a location where the company has 50 or more employees within 75 miles.
In addition to the FMLA leave, your employer may have its own maternity leave policies. Talk to your boss or someone from human resources (also called HR). Here are some questions you may want to ask:
- Does your employer offer paid maternity leave? Some employers offer paid time off for the birth of your baby. Talk with someone from HR to find out if you have paid maternity leave.
- Does your health insurance continue while you’re on maternity leave? If you get your health insurance through your employer, your HR person can tell you about what your insurance plan covers. You may need to change your health plan after your baby’s born to make sure he’s covered, too.
- Does your employer offer flex time or telecommuting for when you’re ready to go back to work? For example, can you work fewer hours each week or work from home at the beginning? And then increase your hours or your time in the office little by little over a few weeks?
- Are there other programs or services that your employer offers to new moms? If you’re breastfeeding, find out if your employer has a lactation room. This is a private space (not a bathroom) that you can use to pump breast milk. Employers with more than 50 employees must provide this space for breastfeeding moms.
Finally, choosing a child care provider that works best for you can be tough. Try to explore your options and finalize your plans before your baby arrives. If you can organize childcare before you deliver, it will make your time at home with your baby more relaxing and enjoyable.