Maternity Leave 101

Maternity leave can be a tough road to navigate and understanding disability and the various levels of job protection can make a woman’s head spin. While HR should provide a comprehensive explanation of all the laws and regulations, most of the time, even they can omit precious facts about job protection. If you’re like me, and come from a smaller company without HR, learning my rights was something I really had to take upon myself. I’m the first female employee to go through pregnancy at the company, therefore, maternity leave was a learning process for everyone. I decided to take a seminar to learn all the facts about maternity leave in California (each state is different). Below is a brief breakdown of what I learned. I tried to keep it as concise and to the point as possible. This is a precious time in our personal lives and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when balancing work, pregnancy, birth and a newborn. Hopefully this information helps you understand a bit more about job protection, disability and maternity leave.

First things first!

There are two different categories of acts that make up maternity leave: Job Protection and How To Get Paid While On Leave

I’ve broken down each act into these two different categories since they are separate from each other…

Job Protection 

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA):
– 12 weeks of  leave with job protection (does not need to be taken at one time)
– Employer is not required to pay you, just hold your job during this period and maintain your health insurance
– Only applies to companies with 50 or more employees

California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
-Also called the Baby Bonding act
-Kicks in after Disability (PDL)
-Additional 12 weeks of leave with job protection (does not need to be taken at one time but does need to be taken within 1 calendar year)
-Employer is not required to pay you, just hold your job during this period and maintain your health insurance
-Only apples to companies with 50 or more employees

California Disability Leave (PDL):
-Up to 4 weeks of job protection prior to birth of baby (must be disabled by your Dr to qualify). If you do not use these 4 weeks prior to birth, you lose the time (it does not accumulate after the baby is born)
-Up to 12 weeks of job protection after birth of baby. This is totally dependent on how long your Dr disables you. The majority of woman will be disabled by their Dr for 6 weeks after a vaginal birth and 8 weeks after a c-section. 12 weeks after birth will be given for particularly tough births that take longer to recover from (like a broken tailbone)
-Employer is not required to pay you, just hold your job during this period and maintain your health insurance
-There are no restrictions to qualify for this job protection

How To Get Paid During Leave

-As long as you’ve paid into state disability insurance through your taxes, you will be qualified to receive disability payments during your maternity leave
-You can begin receiving disability checks as soon as your Dr disables you (which is as early as 4 weeks prior to birth)
-State disability checks pay 55% of your earned income
-You must be disabled by your Dr in order to get paid. Once your Dr clears you to return to work, disability ends
-There is a 7-day waiting period to receive your first check
-You cannot apply for disability in advance, you must file a claim the day that you begin your leave

Paid Family Leave:
-Once disability ends, you will receive a notice about Paid Family Leave.
-You can continue to receive payment checks through PFL for an additional 6 weeks after disability ends
-Like disability, PFL pays 55% of your earned income
-There is no job protection therefore, if you don’t work for a company with more than 50 employees and you are no longer disabled by your Dr, you will no longer have job protection. You can however opt to take more time off and still get paid for a bit more time.
-Fathers can also receive payments if they take off time through PFL

Health Insurance

If your employer offers health insurance but you pay part of the premium, you will need to discuss with your company how to continue to pay your portion while out on leave. Also note, that part of job protection includes the fact that your employer must maintain your health insurance while disabled.

Pumping At Work

Upon returning to work, there are a few rules that your employer must abide by if you choose to breastfeed your baby and thus, need to pump at work:
-Companies are required to have a space for mothers to pump THAT IS NOT a bathroom
-This space needs to be a private room with a lock
-Companies must also abide by your pumping schedule and need to be mindful of the breaks that need to be taken at particular times to pump (this includes not scheduling meetings during these times).

I hope this info, although basic, is helpful as you educate yourself about your rights as a woman and mother in California. I am by no means an expert on the subject but I wanted to share what I’ve learned to hopefully help other women during this confusing time.


One thought on “Maternity Leave 101

  1. Kayley says:

    This is so interesting and helpful! I commend you on taking the initiative to take a class. I also work for a small company and getting information on my maternity leave and how it will work has been a nightmare! Maybe after both these babies come we can have a cousin meet!

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