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Compliance Corner

Exploring FMLA Leave for Pregnancy and Childbirth

Mar 2, 2020

Exploring FMLA Leave for Pregnancy and Childbirth
Paul Kramer

Paul Kramer

Director of Compliance

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) generally entitles eligible employees to up to 12 work weeks of leave per year for pregnancy or birth of a child, among other reasons. Although this time off is unpaid, employers are required to maintain an employee’s group health plan coverage during this period. But what are some other rights and obligations under the FMLA regarding pregnancy and childbirth? Here are key facts employers should understand to better navigate this widely used leave:

The FMLA applies equally to female and male employees

When it comes to FMLA leave related to the birth of a child the focus is commonly on the new mother, which is understandable. Nevertheless, employers are prohibited from discriminating against fathers who wish to take leave in this instance. Both parents are entitled to FMLA leave for the birth of their child.

Bonding time

Eligible employees are entitled to FMLA leave to bond with their healthy newborn child during the 12-month period beginning on the date of birth. Leave on an intermittent or reduced leave schedule, however, may only be taken to bond with a new child if the employer agrees.

Two spouse rule

Spouses employed by the same employer may be limited to a combined total of 12 work weeks of FMLA leave during any 12-month period if the leave is taken for the birth of the employee’s child or to care for a healthy child after birth.

The expectant mother

An expectant mother is entitled to FMLA leave for incapacity caused by pregnancy, for prenatal care, and for her own serious health condition after the child’s birth. Additionally, FMLA leave for incapacity due to pregnancy may be taken by the mother even if she does not receive treatment from a healthcare provider during the absence.

The expectant mother
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Care for a spouse

An eligible employee may take FMLA leave if needed to care for an incapacitated pregnant spouse or if needed to care for her during prenatal care, or after the birth of a child if the spouse has a serious health condition.

Care for a child with a serious health condition

Both parents may take FMLA leave if needed to care for a new child with a serious health condition. In this instance both spouses may each take 12 work weeks of leave even if they are employed by the same employer, provided they have not otherwise exhausted their leave entitlement during the 12-month FMLA period.

No retaliation

Employees may not be retaliated against because they took FMLA leave for pregnancy or birth and must usually be returned to the same or substantially similar position when their leave is over.

Stay current with federal, state, and local leave laws

Employers must be careful because employment-related lawsuits and charges are among the most time-consuming and expensive cases faced by companies. Along with FMLA leave, there are other regulations that may entitle employees to time off for pregnancy and childbirth such as state family and medical leave laws (paid and unpaid), state pregnancy disability laws, state and local parental leaves, and the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. So, stay current with federal, state, and local leave laws, as it is the best way to remain compliant.

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