What You Need to Know About Maternity Leave

Show Me the Money

Time off is one thing; money is another. In order to get any pay while you're on leave, your company must offer paid leave or provide temporary disability insurance as a benefit; such insurance pays about 60 percent of your wages. Unfortunately, many companies don't do either. Shanna Kiger of Plainfield, Illinois, was fortunate enough to work for a caring company.

"My small public relations firm only employed about 10 people, and I was the very first pregnant employee they'd ever had," she says. "They allowed me to go on paid leave." Kiger received about 60 percent of her pay over three months. "I'm so grateful," says Kiger. "They didn't have to do anything for me."

If you're lucky enough to live in New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, or Rhode Island, you may be eligible for their state-run disability plans, many of which provide about 60 percent of your pay during the first six to eight weeks postpartum that you're medically unable to work (New York provides up to $170 per week maximum). But there's a cap on how much pay you can receive; most states max out at $600 per week.

Law-wise, Californians are the luckiest women of all. Not only does the state boast a state-run disability plan, but it also funds family leave through a $1-per-week payroll deduction. Workers there can get six weeks of family leave insurance payments at about 55 percent of their salary, up to approximately $728 a week. That means that no woman in California has to go for 12 weeks without pay. A new mom could draw on her state disability for her first six to eight weeks postpartum. Then, she would receive family leave insurance until she gets to 12 weeks.

If none of the above situations apply to you, you may be able to use accrued vacation, sick days, or personal days to help you get by. But the option of using sick leave is simply not a reality for many. "Half the workforce has no paid sick days, and only one in six part-time workers has any paid sick leave," says Ellen Bravo, director of 9 to 5, the National Association of Working Women. What's more, some companies don't allow employees to use their sick days to care for others, even a new baby. So for women in the workplace, it makes sense to know your company's policy before your pregnancy so you can plan financially.

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