Is My Employer Required to Give Me Paid Maternity Leave?

As residents of the United States—a developed country—expectant mothers are under the impression that they are entitled to maternity benefits. The truth is that the United States does not guarantee paid benefits at all under a maternity leave law. This is devastating considering that many European countries offer weeks or even months of paid leave. At the top of the list, surprisingly, is Bulgaria, which offers a whopping 59 weeks of paid maternity leave. That’s more than a year. Forty-six of these weeks are fully paid.

Some employers offer paid maternity leave, but the amount is not significant. Among the 100 most family-friendly companies in the United States, most offer fewer than six weeks of paid leave. If you are given paid leave, it is often based on how long you have been with the company and how much you earn.

If your company does not offer paid leave, you may still be able to get some of your time off paid for by using sick leave or vacation time. New Jersey also offers unpaid leave for pregnant women. Women can also receive benefits through short-term disability. New mothers can receive two-thirds of their income, up to $645 a week. Disability benefits in New Jersey can last up to 12 weeks. This includes four weeks before delivery and another six weeks for a vaginal delivery or eight weeks for a C-section.

Family and Medical Leave Act

After giving birth, you may qualify for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits. This program allows you to take off 12 weeks from work within a 12-month period, and return to your job, or a similar one. This means you would not be able to be fired for being pregnant or taking time off to have a baby.

However, not all employees are eligible for FMLA benefits. You must have worked for the employer for at least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months. The employer must also have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius. While FMLA leave is unpaid, your employer will be required to continue paying your health benefits during this time. FMLA leave does not have to be taken all at once. You can use it to take shorter blocks of time off or work shorter weeks.

Employers are not required to offer pregnancy leave to employees, but they must treat pregnant women the same as other employees with temporary disabilities. If your company offers benefits to employees while temporarily disabled, pregnant women must be offered those same benefits.

Work with an Experienced New Jersey Discrimination Lawyer

While pregnancy and childbirth are exciting times in a woman’s life, they can also bring uncertainty, especially when it comes to finances. In New Jersey, you may be able to receive both paid and unpaid benefits.

A lawyer can help you understand the types of benefits you can receive after giving birth.  Get the legal help you need by contacting the New Jersey employment law attorneys at The Sattiraju & Tharney, LLP. Whether you were fired or denied benefits during or after pregnancy, we can help. Schedule a free consultation today. Call our office at (609) 722-7026.