The upshot on unpaid maternity leave
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), mothers of newborn (or newly adopted) children can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year.
You qualify for FMLA leave if you work for a company with more than 50 employees who live within 75 miles of their workplace. (Federal, state and local government workers qualify automatically.)
Also, you must have worked for your organization for at least 12 months, and at least 1,250 hours during the previous year.
And you must request leave at least 30 days before you take it.
The skinny on short-term disability insurance
If you want to get paid while on maternity leave, you’ll need short-term disability insurance. Your specific benefits will depend on your organization and insurance provider. But here are some answers to common questions:
How long can I receive payments while on maternity leave?
Maternity typically starts two weeks prior to your delivery date and ends six weeks after your baby is born. Every disability policy is different, though, so it’s important to check with your insurer or employer benefits department for details on yours.
How is my benefit calculated?
Usually, your benefit will be a percentage of your pre-disability earnings, up to a stated weekly maximum. (Your plan determines the amount.)
When can I expect to receive payments?
There’s typically an “elimination period” (determined by your employer) before you can start getting payments. Once the period is over, you’ll be paid according to your policy’s rules, usually weekly or biweekly.
What if my leave needs to start sooner (or later) than planned and reported?
Notify your benefits department and insurance company as soon as you become aware of any date changes. You’ll probably have to provide additional documentation to determine your coverage.
What happens to my benefits if my recovery time extends beyond the approved period?
If you expect to remain disabled beyond your plan’s limit, you may be covered anyway. Just make sure to notify your benefits department and insurer as soon as you become aware of any date changes. Your doctor may need to provide updated medical information as well.
Is there anything else I can do to ensure I receive benefit payments on time?
After you’ve submitted your claim, notify your benefits department and insurer of any changes to your expected delivery date.
If my state provides disability benefits, will they affect how much I receive through work?
Yes. If you live in California, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii or Puerto Rico, the amount you receive from your workplace insurance provider will be reduced by what you receive through the state or territory’s plan.
What you can do next
Because benefits vary from workplace to workplace and insurer to insurer, it’s very important to contact your benefits department and insurance provider with questions. Because this will affect your income, the sooner the better.