Tag Archives: maternity leave

Maternity Leave – HRs Role in Creating Policy

The absence of an integral employee due to pregnancy and/or the delivery of a child can create challenges for your business. It’s something that you should definitely plan for. According to a 2008 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “More than 60 percent of men and women in the labor force have children under the age of 6.”

Creating a maternity leave policy will minimize friction and ensure that new mothers are given the necessary time to recover and care for their newborns. What specific role does HR play in this process?


Federal and State Laws

There are two federal laws in place that protect mothers. Your HR team must make sure your business is compliant with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Although you’re not legally obligated to provide paid maternity leave in most states, you must adhere to the laws. Otherwise, you could wind up facing litigation.

Note that a handful of states have unique laws in place regarding family medical leave provisions. If your business operates out of one of these states, there may be special parameters in place that dictate how you approach maternity leave. Consult this guide from the National Conference of State Legislatures for more information.


Determining Eligibility

It’s also HR’s job to determine exactly who is eligible for maternity leave. Here are the eligibility requirements for FMLA leave according to the United States Department of Labor (DOL):

An employee must work for a covered employer and:

  • have worked for that employer for at least 12 months
  • have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of the FMLA leave
  • work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed at the location or within 75 miles of the location.


You can find more information on eligibility requirements in the DOL resource listed above. Your HR team must look at all of the angles and decide what makes the most sense for your business, noting any specific variables that factor into the equation.


Explaining the Various Types of Leave

HR should also clarify the different types of maternity leave employees can take. There are three main types of leave that include the following:

  • Intermittent leave
  • Reduced-schedule leave
  • Block-of-time leave

The first two are pretty self-explanatory. Block-of-time leave is when an employee is given an extended period of time off, which is fairly common post-childbirth.


Giving Notice

Finally, it’s up to HR to determine when employees must give notice as well as what types of documentation they must provide. For example, HR might mandate that employees must provide 30 days notice before they anticipate going on maternity leave.

An effective maternity leave policy is critical to business operations and for preventing lawsuits. It also plays a role in recruiting and employee retention. Therefore, it’s important for HR to create a policy that fulfills legal obligations, ensures the well-being of employees and minimizes complications within the workplace.


Employer Obligations Regarding Maternity Leave

When an employee first announces that she’s pregnant, congratulations are usually in order on the good news. But when it comes to having a pregnant employee, there are several different laws that employers must be aware of to ensure compliance and avoid any legal complications. In addition, you need to know what your responsibilities and obligations are when handling the situation.


Relevant Federal Laws

There are three federal laws that specifically address pregnancy.

  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which is defined on the U.S. EEOC website as “Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions as unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII.”
  • The Family Leave and Medical Act (FMLA), which allows new mothers to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave a year.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations for a disability related to pregnancy.

These laws are designed to protect the rights of pregnant women and new mothers and ensure that they’re able to give their newborns adequate care. If an employer is found to be in violation of one or more of these laws, it can result in costly penalties and lawsuits.


State Laws

In addition to federal laws, many states have their own unique laws regarding maternity issues and are bit more liberal with the rights of pregnant employees. For instance, California, New Jersey and Hawaii require that employees receive partial wage replacement if they’re unable to temporarily work because of pregnancy. Because laws can vary considerably depending upon the state you’re in, you can learn more about pregnancy discrimination laws, breastfeeding and leave rights on the Legal Momentum website.


Employer Obligations

First, you’re required to offer mothers-to-be up to 12 weeks of leave per year. This includes intermittent leave for things like prenatal care and time off to address serious medical complications related to birth. However, it’s important to note that some states have laws that are more generous with maternity leave. Tennessee, for instance, allows up to 16 weeks of leave under the right circumstances. It’s crucial to stay up-to-date on the details for your state.

It’s illegal to punish an employee for taking medical leave — and you’re not allowed to terminate them because of it. If you employ a married couple, then you’re required to offer the husband and the mother-to-be a combined total of 12 weeks of leave so they can both provide care.


A pregnant employee is something most employers will inevitably face. Understanding relevant maternity leave laws and what’s expected of you as an employer should make the process easier and protect your company from penalties and/or lawsuits. For more information on this topic, you can consult the Pregnancy Discrimination section on the EEOC’s website.



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