When is prenatal maternity leave expected to start?
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Thanks in advance for your kind advice and I’m looking forward to reading from you.
In most states and across the country there’s really no distinction between pre-natal, maternity, and post-natal leave. Maternity leave, in general, is covered throughout the length of the pregnancy and following the birth of the child. Leave, under the federal and most state FMLA regulations, is required before the birth of the child if there are complications and/or for doctor visits and for an amount of time after the child is born.
I’m making the leap that your company has an additional policy for pre- and post-natal leave that goes beyond what local and federal FMLA requirements are based on your question. If that’s the case — well done! You’re well within your rights to set the ‘pre-natal leave date’ at one month before, or August 21. Following the birth of the child, you can set the return date from post-natal leave at your designated 3-month mark. Both of these, however are predicated on a few factors:
The total leave time is at least the minimum required by law. Depending on the size of your business and whether or not FMLA is applicable, a minimum of 12 weeks is required at the federal level. Depending on where you’re located, there may be additional leave requirements. Make sure your leave policy does not go below the minimum requirements.
Is the employee required to take pre-natal leave? If they choose not to take pre-natal leave, are they given the additional month off following the birth of the child? I would be hesitant to make pre-natal leave a requirement of employees about to give birth. Many will welcome the benefit, others may prefer to work as long as they are able.
If you’re offering pre-natal time off (with or without pay) as an option rather than a requirement, consider that some mothers who do not use pre-natal leave are enjoying less of a benefit than others who do. This might not be an issue initially, but it may put your organization in a position of creating a disparate impact on some new mothers. To assure parity, you might want to offer mothers who turn down pre-natal leave that unused time off following the birth of their child.
Unless a child is being delivered by C-section and the date has been agreed upon, obstetricians typically don’t get baby’s due date exactly right. Sometimes even scheduled babies arrive before they’re supposed to! There may be wiggle room either way — with the baby coming early or late. One month of pre-natal leave based on the child’s due date may be more open-ended than you think. Be ready to be flexible.
Finally, if the child comes early on in the leave — say on day 1 — does pre-natal leave end? Is the employee then provided the unused pre-natal time after the birth? If the child comes late — beyond the one month mark (poor mommy!!) — does that reduce post-natal time off? You’ll want to assure your policy is clear with regard to total time off and when it’s applicable, either before or after the birth.
It sounds as though your company is trying to provide the most generous leave possible for expectant and new mothers – which is wonderful. You can certainly stay within your own guidelines for leave start and end dates, always providing they’re in line with the law. Be ready to be flexible – remember babies set their own rules — as much as you try to plan, they’ll probably throw you a curve. And please consider assuring your generous leave policy is as equitable as possible, no matter when mothers choose to use it.
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