Parental leave has come a long way in the United States, but many would argue that it still has a long way to go. If you are expecting a child, you are probably wondering how long you can take off of work and whether you will continue to get paid or receive benefits during that time.
Unfortunately, Texas does not have any laws requiring parental leave. However, there is a federal law, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which may allow you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after having a child if you and your employer qualify.
How much leave does the FMLA provide?
The FMLA requires all employers included under the law to give eligible employees a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave, which can be used for pregnancy disability or for parental leave. This means a woman who cannot work for the last three weeks of her pregnancy can have that time off and an additional nine weeks off after the baby arrives.
The leave applies to mothers and fathers of biological, adoptive, or foster children.
What other benefits does the FMLA provide?
Your employer must continue to provide you with health insurance as if you were still working.
When you return from leave, you must be given your same position. If your position is no longer available, you must be given one that has the same pay, benefits and responsibilities.
Does the FMLA apply to me?
The FMLA applies to employers that have at least 50 employees. The business must have this many employees for 20 weeks or more of the current calendar year or the immediate previous calendar year, and the weeks do not need to be consecutive. All part-time and full-time employees are counted, but independent contractors are not counted.
If the FMLA applies to your employer, you also must be eligible by:
- Having worked for the employer for at least 12 months (from the date that your leave will begin);
- Putting in at least 1,250 hours (which is equal to about 24 hours per week) in the 12 months leading up to the start of your leave; and
- Working at a site with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.
Other important facts about the FMLA:
- Your employer may require you to use other accrued paid leave during your FMLA leave such as vacation or sick time.
- You must use all of the leave at once unless your employer agrees to let you divide up the leave incrementally.
- You must use all of your leave within one year of your child's arrival.
- If you and your spouse have the same employer, you will share a total of 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave.
- You don't have to take all of the leave if you cannot afford to take that much time off without pay.
When your employer isn't following the FMLA
If your employer is not giving you the leave that you are entitled to under the FMLA, or you are otherwise being discriminated against due to your pregnancy, then you should speak with an employment law attorney right away about what you can do to enforce your rights and get the time off that you deserve.