Thanks to the Family Medical Leave act of 1993, *every pregnant or nursing mother is guaranteed 12 weeks of leave from their job to care for their newborn. However, as citizens of other developed nations are frequently stunned to hear, the law does not guarantee paid leave, only job security. In other words, the maternity leave that the U.S. system has adopted is one of a “right not to be fired.”
The complete FMLA guide is available here. However, we’ll touch on some of the major points below.
Qualifying For Maternity Leave
To qualify for Maternity Leave under FMLA guidelines, potential mothers must meet several requirements. The main requirement regarding FMLA qualifications is employment time at a particular company. However, we’ll go over all of them in depth below.
You Have Been An Employee For One Year
To qualify for maternity leave at your company, you must have been at that same company for at least one calendar year before requesting maternity leave. This key date here, the first day of employment at the company, is when the clock begins. Not, for example, the day you accepted the offer.
Average 25 Hours Per Week
There is a catch to the one-year requirement, and that is that not only do you need to have been working for your current employer for at least a year, you also need to have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year leading up to the pregnancy. This works out to about 25 hours per week.
Your Employer Is Not FMLA Exempt
Extremely important to know for anyone planning on becoming pregnant whether your employer is within a category of business exempt from FMLA guidelines. The primary feature of companies that are exempt from FMLA guidelines is those with less than 50 employees. So in Texas, where small business is king, your employer may well be exempt from offering you unpaid maternity leave.
Intermittent leave or a Reduced Schedule
Intermittent leave is a type of maternity leave a pregnant woman may receive if deemed medically necessary. Essentially, in high-risk pregnancies, the mother may be required to make multiple hospital visits a month, if not every week. Intermittent leave allows the potential mother to take time off they need as deemed by the medical condition.
How to do it: you have to request it from your employer 30 days before needing the intermittent leave. As pregnancies can bring uncertainties, we realize this may seem impossible. Best practices are to request intermittent leave as soon as you know it is going to be necessary.
Teachers and FMLA
Given the time frame of the school year, which operates for nine months out of the year (which is typically 12 months), FMLA had to incorporate a particular class of laws for just teachers. Among the most essential stipulations is that summer vacation (if your school does not meet over the summer, typically) does not count against your 12 weeks guaranteed by FMLA regulations.
Time Off Allowed By FMLA
Assuming you qualify for unpaid maternity leave (see above), federal law guarantees you 12 weeks off to care for and bond with your new child. Extensions such as intermittent maternity leave or even medical leave are possible but must be deemed medically necessary.
Additionally, this unique stipulation only applies to elementary, middle, and high school educators. Therefore colleges/universities, pre-schools, grammar schools, and the like are not included in this exemption.
Do You Have To Take The 12 Weeks During Birth?
No. Mothers can utilize their 12 weeks of guaranteed unpaid leave at any time after the child has been born. Many people choose to take sick days or paid leave days first for the birth process and then utilize their 12 weeks after the fact.
Is Maternity Leave Paid Leave?
To reiterate the point from the opening paragraph, as of the final session of 2021, companies are not required to offer paid maternity leave. Nevertheless, companies are free to offer the benefit themselves, and it’s a route more and more companies have been taking this approach with increasing frequency.
This list of 180 companies that offer paid maternity leave, which is by no means expansive, illustrates the direction many companies are going. Outside of the ethical considerations, it has served as a promising way to lure talented young women away from companies that lean on the standard 12 weeks of FMLA law.
Paternity Leave in Texas
Paternity leave is not required by either the federal government under the Family Medical Leave Act or the state of Texas (obviously). However, several companies (we’re hoping to create an updated list) have chosen to offer paternity leave to their employees.
Those companies include financial giants Prudential and TD Ameritrade. The latter, TD Ameritrade, owns both Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase, which offer 16 weeks’ paid leave for new dads. In addition, outside of Texas, tech giants such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook all offer paternity leave (paid, paternity leave at that).
Recent Law Changes
Despite its perennial controversy and frequent speculation, very little has been done to change maternity leave laws in the state of Texas. Neither of the three special sessions from 2021 passed significant legislation on maternity (or paternity) leave. We will leave this section open for addressing, explaining, and contextualizing new maternity leave laws as they become part of Texas law.