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.


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