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The Labor Laws for Returning to Work From Maternity Leave

by Sharon Perkins , studioD

After having a baby, a new mom's return-to-work date might loom large on the horizon, for both her and her employer. As with many legal issues, every states sets its own regulations covering the amount of time an employer must allow an employee to take off after having a baby and whether the employee gets paid or unpaid leave while off the job.

Paid Leave

No reasonable employer would expect a new mom to return to work immediately after having a baby. In some states, paid maternity leave allows a new mom to stay home for at least several weeks after giving birth. Some states pay maternity benefits as part of their disability plans. The disability pay covers part but not all of the employee's income. States with paid disability after delivery include California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island, according to "Parents" magazine. Stipulations do apply; in some states, an employee must have worked for the company for a certain amount of time and the company must have a certain number of employees.

Using Paid Time Off

An employee who has just had a baby may also be able to use her sick leave, vacation time or paid time off to extend her time off after delivery. Some companies might require that the employee use up all available time before taking time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Pregnant women should check with their company's human resources department to find out what regulations apply before their due date.

Family Medical Leave Act

The Family Medical Leave Act, better known as FMLA, allows employees to take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave per 12-month period to care for themselves or a family member. An employee can add FMLA time after they use up any maternity benefits their state offers, extending their time at home, in many cases. This benefit has limitations, however. Employers with a small number of employees -- the number varies by state -- don't have to offer FMLA. An employee must also work for a company for 12 months before they take FMLA, according to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.

Holding an Employee's Job

Under the Pregnancy Disability Act, an employer can't use pregnancy or maternity leave after delivery as a reason to terminate an employee's employment. The employer must treat pregnancy and delivery as it would any other medical condition, including allowing the newly-delivered woman recovery time. The company must also provide alternate work, if an employee can't perform her job at some point, if it offers these benefits for other medical conditions.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

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