by Beth Swanson

Maternity Leave

As an employer, how should you handle maternity leave?  This is going to depend on whether or not your company employs 50 or more employees within a 75 miles radius of one another. If so, this would require you to comply with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  If you are a company that is required to comply with FMLA, you are required to provide eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for the birth and care of the newborn child.  The employee Is eligible if they have worked for you for at least 12 months and has worked at least 1,250 hours over the last 12 months.  Time taken off during pregnancy complications can be counted against the 12 weeks.  An employer can require an employee to “substitute “ (run concurrently) paid leave during FMLA.

Companies under 50 employees normally handle maternity leave the same way as any medical leave within their organization.  You should have a medical leave policy in your Employee Handbook and this should be consistently followed regardless of reason for leave.  In essence, if you have a medical leave policy that allows for 8 weeks paid/unpaid time for medical related absences, your employees taking “maternity leave” should fall under this same policy.

The best thing employers can do is to have clear policies and be sure they are consistent on administering them.  If you fall under the FMLA requirements, you will need to be sure that you are handling these types of leaves according to Department of Labor guidelines.

Source:  United States Department of Labor: WHD:  The Employer’s Guide to The Family and Medical Leave Act

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