Maternity Leave: What’s Standard Time Off?

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Half Our Workforce Needs Time to Tend to Our Future

The attitude of the employer towards maternity leave can affect the overall corporate culture

Maternity leave is a disruption for any business, particularly when dealing with key personnel.

However, happy new moms who return to work feeling they have the support of their employer and managers are sure to jump back into the job with renewed vigor.

Balancing work with extra tasks like trying to find the best car seat booster or crib mattress is a challenge for any parent.

Consequently, the easier you can make maternity leave for your employees, the more attention to work your company will receive in the long run when they return to the job.

Federal laws mandate minimum requirements for maternity leave, but then there is what is customary in your industry and geographic location.

Standard practices when it comes to time off will help you address the concerns of new moms.

Here is some information to help you understand what’s standard time off for maternity leave.


Giving new moms a chance to bond with baby is a powerful employee benefit.
img credit : marin via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993

Women in the United States don’t have to worry about losing their jobs if they take time off to have a baby.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) assures anyone, male or female, can get a maximum of 12 unpaid weeks off to take care of a newborn, newly adopted child, or sick family member.

State Programs

Of course, FMLA only guarantees unpaid leave, and there are other restrictions.

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These include minimum work history with the firm and limitations on the size of the business that must comply.

Many states have stepped in to increase the benefits families receive.

Each state has different requirements, and it is inherently your responsibility to confirm what is law in your locale.

A large percentage of states have more lenient rules for maternity leave, and a few states even treat pregnancy as a disability, giving new mothers compensatory alternatives within the individual state’s disability program.

Accumulated Vacation and Sick Time

For employees with accumulated vacation and sick time, maternity leave is not a problem.

However, in the United States where vacations tend to be shorter than other parts of the world, few employees will have sufficient hours saved.

This is especially true in the case of an unplanned pregnancy.

Some of this time, though, could be applied to the total amount requested by the employee, and the remainder could be unpaid.

It is not unheard of for employees to help out an expectant mother and donate some of their sick or vacation benefit hours.

Actually, progressive companies have pools for employee contributions of unused hours in times of co-worker emergencies.

In the American workaholic culture, many people skip vacations, and most firms have lifetimes on the payout of vacation days.

This avoids an employee saving up to take a year off to sail around the world while your company is left in the lurch.

Telecommuting for Certain Positions

Some tasks can actually be accomplished through telecommuting.

While the employee may not be ready to work full-time from home, they can at least keep some work going with partial compensation.

For example, sales staff can shepherd a sale through the sales process.

Mutual agreement on telecommuting parameters must be spelled out precisely to avoid misunderstanding.

But for many women, this option does keep them in the loop and connected to real adult conversation.


All sorts of new technology makes working from home a good option for moms!
img credit : Ambro via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Update April 2016 – U.S. Paid Parental Leave

Sharlyn Lauby of hrbartender.com fame has published a post U.S. Fails on Paid Parental Leave complete with an infographic on the challenges the U.S. employee is facing.

If you don’t know Sharlyn, then we highly recommend that you do!

She’s even one of our featured speakers in our Speaker Interview Series™ and our interview with her is one of our highest read.

The Last Word

While standard practice varies somewhat, working with your staff to make maternity leave workable for all parties is key.

In the long run, employee goodwill and having a company image as being family-friendly will all be enhanced.

What Are Your Thoughts?

  The future is seeing a smaller workforce, by as much as 30%, with many predictions of this happening within 5 years. Yet, in many ways the workforce has yet to make the best use of the female worker, especially in developing countries. For the developed countries, there is still some guilt to be had for not fully implementing the skills and talents of the female workforce. Even more accomodation will need to be made in order to tap the skills and talents of the female workforce. What do you see happening with corporate culture to adopt to this need?

  Granted, this is going to take accommodations at all levels with the reduced workforce coming. The ‘time sharing’ of vacation hours is one great idea, what others have you seen or do you recommend?

  What research and/or services can The HRIS World do for you and your company when it comes to the Working Family Needs? Feel free to leave a comment below or click below to use our contact page to reach us!

Please share your thoughts with us and our audience in the comments section below! Or you can reach us directly from our contact page.

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Sarah was brought to our attention by Katrina Robinson of Media Shower who can be reached by email by clicking here.

Sarah Boisvert is a serial entrepreneur who has created and built several high-tech companies whose success she attributes to excellent employees and partners.

You can reached Sarah at via email, social media, or by leaving a comment below...

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Posted in company policies, employee benefits, employee retention, HR Management, Human Resources, The HRIS Career World and tagged , , .

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