It’s no secret the United States is one of only a handful of countries to not provide paid parental leave benefits on the national level. In 2017, the The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development studied trends in maternity leave for other high-income countries and found that in 2016, they had an average of over one year of paid leave by 2016.In contrast, in 2019, only four U.S. states—California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island—currently offer paid family leave at all, and, federally, The Family Leave and Medical Act (FMLA) allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave for those that qualify. Qualifications include having worked for your employer for at least a year and working at a place with at least 50 employees at the location where you work. In other words, it’s not easy to qualify.
Some companies are picking up the slack by providing paid family leave, but, according to the Bureau of Labor, only 17 percent of private industry workers benefitted in 2018, and most were high-earning, white employees. Ruth Martin, vice president of MomsRising, a grassroots organization fighting for workplace justice, says, “Limited access to paid family medical leave is the sad reason why nearly half of this country’s women end up taking less than two months of maternity leave, and nearly one in four returns to work within two weeks of giving birth.”
“Nearly one in four [mothers] return to work within two weeks of giving birth.”
Within a system that falls so short of working parents’ financial, emotional, and physical needs, how can you better prepare yourself? Whether or not your company provides maternity leave, there are questions you can ask to ensure that you’re getting the absolute most out of your benefits.Knowing your rights and what’s offered before going on leave will help make your transition that much easier. So, we compiled a series of questions to have on-deck when you’re figuring out your maternity leave options.
Here’s a checklist of questions for human resources, your manager, and your coworkers: