While the maternity leave laws are pretty straight forward for large companies, there is huge spectrum on how a company practices its maternity leave policy. The federal and state maternity leave laws only protect your job and your health insurance benefits (all other benefits could be frozen while you are on maternity leave). Your company can decide everything else about your maternity leave.
Here is a list of maternity leave questions you must ask while you are planning your maternity leave.
In this post when I am referring to maternity leave, I am talking about the time away from work. Income replacement while you are on leave is not required by law. These maternity leave questions are design to help you figure out the income replacement while you are on leave.
Is there a limit on the number of sick days you can use for maternity leave?
I was under the mistaken impression that I only need to save my sick leave for maternity leave prior to having a baby. So for 5 years, I hoarded my sick leave and sometimes even using vacation when I am sick. For my situation, it turned out that I only use about 180 hours of sick leave for my entire maternity leave because I had SDI and PFL.
For my company, I could only use sick leave when I am “disable” as defined by the medical community. This means the 4 weeks leading up to the due date and the 6 weeks recovering from birth for a vaginal birth. And the only way you can extend this recovery time is if there are complications like a blood clotting issues or an infection.
However, a friend was able to use her entire two months of sick leave AFTER the initial 6 weeks for recovery from the birth.
The use of sick leave after recovery from birth depends on your company’s maternity leave policy.
Do you have to use up your vacation before you can get Paid Family Leave?
A company can request you use up to two weeks of vacation (which is all your vacation for some of you) before you can take Paid Family Leave.
I used all my vacation prior to taking Paid Family Leave because I want to extend my maternity leave as long as possible. I only had 55% of my income during the last 6 weeks of my paid maternity leave from just PFL alone.
Another co-worker wanted to use her vacation at the same time as PFL to get 100% income replacement during the last 6 weeks of her maternity leave.
When and how much vacation you can use also depends on your company’s maternity leave policy.
What is the waiting period for the short term disability insurance?
Some companies might private short term disability insurance instead of the California state disability insurance (SDI). The waiting period for SDI is 7 calendar days (or 5 working days). For private short term disability insurance the typical waiting period is 30 days.
If your company has private short term disability insurance in addition to SDI, can you use SDI during the waiting period? Which disability insurance takes precedence?
Typically the only requirement during the waiting period is that you are not at work physically. It usually does not care if you are getting paid or how you are getting paid.
For the first 4 weeks, you are getting income from 22 hours a week from SDI and 18 hours a week from sick leave (or vacation).
If your recovery period is 6 weeks for a normal birth, with a 30 day waiting period, you are only getting income from the private disability insurance on the 5th and 6th week after getting birth. Between the private short term disability insurance and SDI, you should get 100% of your paycheck. But which one takes precedence?
Does a doctor determine when your disability check stop?
Normally, you would have a post partum follow-up with your ob/gyn 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth. This checkup is to ensure that you are healing properly, but also to indirectly verify that you are no longer disabled.
SDI automatically stops your payment after 6 weeks for a normal birth unless your doctor fills out more paperwork to extend your recovery period.
However, for private short term disability insurance, your doctor might have to certify that you are recovered to stop payment. This means if you make your post partum follow-up 5 weeks after giving birth, then your disability payments might stop at the 5th week.
A friend of a friend made her post partum follow-up for Tuesday on her 5th week because her ob/gyn scheduled vacation over a long holiday weekend. Once her short term disability insurance got the paperwork from her doctor saying that she was recovered by her 5th week, they stop her payment one week earlier than planned.
Tap into the mommy network for your maternity leave questions!
Don’t forget to tap into the mommy network at work for some answers to these maternity leave questions. I found that once you are pregnant, other new moms open up and are more than willing to share their maternity leave experience with you. I know I am always willing to help, especially when there is a free lunch involve.
To find out about how to make the most of your maternity leave and enjoy the time with your baby, you need to watch this. I watched this video in my birthing class and it made a huge difference on how to get our baby adjusted to being outside the womb and to stop crying. His method really works!
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Photo by: Stefan Baudy.
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