how does maternity leave work, exactly? — Ask a Manager

here are the 10 best questions to ask your job interviewer — Ask a Manager

I’m a father, not a mother, but my wife and I have a baby a little over a year old.

As said, any workplace to which FMLA would apply covers parental leave. It CAN start at the birth of the baby, or it could start before if your doctor deems it necessary. It can also be taken by either parent at anytime with 12 months of the birth OR adoption/placement of a child.

Note too that FMLA only guarantees 12 weeks off, and if you begin leave before birth this comes out of your 12 weeks.

Also note that FMLA does not require that this leave be continuous, and many people will, for example, take a couple of weeks after birth, go back, and then take leave later. I’ve known a lot of fathers who took 1-3 weeks right after the birth, then took the rest of their time after their spouse returned to work. Definitely check on this, though, as my employer does not allow you to “split” parental leave under FMLA(one you return, that’s the end of the leave you can claim.

FMLA is silent on pay. My employer allows us to use as much benefited time as we have, but no other provisions. My wife’s work offers 2 weeks of fully paid parental leave, short term disability at 60% of your pay for up to 6 weeks(can use benefitted time for the gap) and then benefitted time for the remaining 4 weeks.

Read carefully too about whether or not FMLA protections apply to you/your job, especially as there is a minimum size of employer to which it applies and also only applies to employees who have been there for 12 months(IIRC, some states have laws that lower one or both of these limits, but absolutely check on this!).

Also, I’ll just mention, and I hesitate to say this, but I nearly lost my job over taking a measly 3 weeks of parental leave. No, on paper it wasn’t that, but there was also a clear link between my filing to take leave and when my supervisor changed their tune from “you’re doing great” to “everything you’ve done in the time you’ve been here has been a complete disaster.” The union was ready to go and fight for me, especially when it became clear that my supervisor seemed to be determined to find any reason to get rid of me(I improved demonstrably and measurably in all the areas the official notification letter I received specified, but rather than acknowledging those improvements she’d go looking for other things, I’d fix those and she’d find more, etc-fortunately at the end I got a formal apology, she got a reprimand, and is no longer my direct supervisor). Hopefully that does NOT happen to your partner, though.

BTW, as far as timelines, check your employee handbook or any other relevant documents for the minimum time. With that said, within reason, earlier-within reason-is probably better both to allow your employer to plan for your absence and also as a buffer against early arrivals or complications that make you take leave early(our son decided he was making an appearance 3 weeks early…my wife had probably worked a 12 hour shift as a nurse in the early stages of labor without realizing. The doctor sent us to the hospital after what was otherwise a routine 37 week check-up, and that morning my wife had led a meeting and been making plans to meet with someone the next day…). I started trying to file paperwork right around 3 months, although the HR person who handles that at my work is notoriously difficult to contact and it was roughly 80 days from the due date before I actually was able to file the paperwork. My supervisor also cited me for waiting too late, even though our contract requires 30 days notice…

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