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Rebecca Ward

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Maternity/Paternity Leave: Did you know that?

When an employee expands their family they will have questions about options for maternity or paternity leave. Here are a few things to consider when an employee requests maternity/paternity leave.

Maternity/paternity leave typically refers to the time parents take off during and after the birth of their child, however, company policies vary. Under federal law, employees who work for a company with 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius of the office, who have worked for their company for at least 12 months, and have worked at least 1,250 hours during that period, are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, which is covered under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Additional state laws may also apply to both paid and unpaid leave related to the birth or adoption of a child. For example, California has a number of additional regulations and rules including the Paid Family Leave and Family Rights Acts that add complexity to administration of employee leave.

Employees can also create a combination of paid and unpaid  leave from a variety of benefits, such as sick leave, vacation, holiday times, personal days, short-term disability, and of course, FMLA.  Work with your human resources department, legal counsel, or a KPA HRM Advocate to understand what you, as an employer, are required to offer by law, what is considered a best practices, and what your employee is entitled to when planning for maternity/paternity leave. Consider the following when you begin planning:

  • Leave is not only for mothers. For example, FMLA may also be used for “birth and bonding:” extended parental leave for both mothers and fathers for the birth or adoption, or bonding with a new foster child. 
  • FMLA doesn’t have to be taken all at once. Employees can take some time off, return, and take more time off in the future, or you can take part-time off until the equivalent of 12 weeks has been taken off.
  • Short-term disability insurance can cover a portion of salaries throughout maternity leave.
  • Employers must maintain insurance during leave, but employees may have to pay for it out of pocket. Because FMLA is often used for maternity/paternity leave, the employee will not be getting paid, which means the company won’t be making insurance deductions. This means that, as always, the employee is still responsible for insurance payments.
  • Have a written policy that covers what the company will offer in the way of leave.  Include state and federal requirements for paid and unpaid leave and be clear on expectation of documentation, when a request for leave must be submitted and requirements for employee to use available paid time off.

Do you have further questions about handing impending maternity/paternity leaves? Contact hrm@kpaonline.com. KPA HR Management clients may also contact their assigned employment attorney for additional assistance.

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