How long is maternity leave?

Q: How much time off am I entitled to during maternity leave?

A: That depends on a few factors, such as where you work, how long you've worked there, and what state you live in, to name a few. The term "maternity leave" encompasses two types of time off. - Family leave refers to the time you spend caring for your baby after she arrives. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 grants all parents (including dads and adoptive parents) the same unpaid 12 weeks. You can begin the 12 weeks before you give birth, but then you'll have less time afterward. - Maternity disability or medical leave refers to the period of time (usually six weeks for a normal vaginal delivery and eight weeks for an uncomplicated cesarean delivery) after the birth, during which you are medically unable to work as you recuperate. Only five states (New York, New Jersey, California, Rhode Island, and Hawaii, as well as Puerto Rico) have state-run temporary disability plans. These only cover those weeks during which you're medically unable to work, and it excludes fathers and adoptive parents. However, it's important to note that most companies don't provide paid maternity leave -- and don't have to. Many women technically aren't even eligible for unpaid time off under family leave laws, either because they haven't been at a job long enough (FMLA stipulates that you've been working at your current job at least 12 months and 1,250 hours) or because their company is too small (the law only applies to companies with more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius). Ask your employer what the company policy is, or visit the Web site of the National Partnership for Women & Families for more information on state-by-state guidelines. --Amy Zintl

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