Maternity Leave Laws

Be sure to find out what maternity leave laws exist in your state before determining how much time you will request off from work.

Knowledge is power, and that's true when you're making preparations for your leave from work and, perhaps, your eventual return. Before making any final decisions on the length and conditions of your maternity leave, find out what you're entitled to by law.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected maternity leave. This law applies to all businesses with 50 or more employees. It requires the employer to continue to offer you the same health insurance coverage at the same price that you would pay if you had remained at work. Your employer must also keep your job (or an equivalent position) open for you when you return. However, pay attention to the law's fine print. For example, you're eligible only if you have been at your job for 12 months or more. And if you don't return to work after your maternity leave, your company may ask you to reimburse it for the premiums it paid to maintain your health insurance coverage while you were on leave. The U.S. Department of Labor ( or your company's human resources department can fill you in on all the details of the FMLA.

Although it is not mandated by law, some employers offer paid leave for all or part of your absence; others may allow you to collect short-term disability payments.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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