In 2018, there were 3,791,712 beautiful babies born across America. Being a new parent should be full of excitement and time spent with the new bundle of joy. But to receive that time, new parents need to understand their rights.

The average length of maternity leave is a tricky subject in America. While federal laws are in place, rules vary from state-to-state. Companies may also enforce their own policies regarding paid and unpaid family leave.

newborn baby

If you’re expecting, it’s crucial to plan your maternity leave. Let’s discuss maternity leave length and help you get prepared for when your baby is due.

The Average Length of Maternity Leave in America

As your due date gets closer, prepare for your little one’s arrival. While you may have a fully-stocked nursery, don’t forget to make preparations regarding your maternity leave.

FMLA and Maternity Leave

In America, new mothers receive 12 weeks of unpaid leave, thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act passed in 1993. These 12 weeks are federally mandated.

There are stipulations on who qualifies for maternity leave under FMLA. A woman must be working in their job for one year. The employer must have over 50 employees within 75 miles of the company. 

Other rules regarding maternity leave vary between companies. While a woman is allowed 12 weeks of unpaid absence, some businesses offer different packages or paid maternity leave. 

Currently, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act is working its way through Congress. The act grants paid time off for people with newborns, newly adopted children, or to recover from or care for a family member with a severe medical condition.

Maternity Leave and Your State

Every state must adhere to the Family and Medical Leave Act, but some areas are doing more for new mothers. Eighteen states have laws that offer more than FMLA covers. These states include:

  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Minnesota
  • Connecticut
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • New Hampshire
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Louisiana
  • Kentucky
  • California
  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • Hawaii
  • Montana

Let’s explore a few examples of how maternity leave differs between states.

California offers up to four-month maternity leave. Women may collect temporary disability payments that equal 2/3 of their wages. This applies to companies with at least five employees.

In Oregon, workplaces with 25 or more employees receive 12 weeks of maternity leave. This rule applies to newborn babies as well as mothers who adopt a child under the age of six. Oregon also requires employers to provide paid sick leave to employees, which workers can use during pregnancy and after childbirth. Employees must have been at the company for 90 consecutive days.

New Jersey mothers can collect state payments four weeks prior to their child’s birth and six weeks following delivery. The payments equal tw-thirds of a woman’s weekly salary. The law applies to mothers who have worked 1,000 hours in the past 365 days.

In Iowa, women receive a maximum of eight weeks of disability leave for pregnancy and childbirth. To qualify, a woman must be employed at a company with at least four workers.

Maternity Discrimination

Maternity is not a reason for losing your job. Companies cannot fire or demote a woman employee because she is pregnant or out on maternity leave. 

Once a woman’s maternity leave is over, she should expect to resume the same position she held before absence. She should receive the same schedule, benefits, and salary.

Pregnancy discrimination is a crime, which women can bring to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.

What About Paternity Leave?

Maternity leave in America is 12 weeks, but what about paternity leave? Unfortunately, there are no federal laws regarding paid paternity leave in the United States. This may change in the future, as 92 other countries around the world offer paternity leave for new dads.

Paternity leave varies between states and companies. Five states currently enforce mandated paternity leave. They are:

  • New York
  • California
  • New Jersey
  • New Hampshire
  • Washington D.C.

If you are a new father in the other 45 states, you will only receive paid paternity leave if your company allows for it. 

Men qualify under FMLA for 12-weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new child. However, if both parents are taking unpaid time from work, there may be some financial burdens. 

How to Prepare for Maternity Leave

Before you start your maternity leave, get prepared. It’s essential to discuss your options with HR, create a suitable budget, and devise a childcare plan for after maternity leave ends.

  1. Talk With Your HR Department

The first thing to do is to find out where your company stands on maternity leave. Speak with your HR team to learn all of your options. Some companies may offer partial paid leave. From there, you can make a decision based on what works best for you.

It’s also important to touch base with your HR team before maternity leave to ensure all documents are in place. Your HR department may require forms and paperwork to be submitted in advance.

  1. Create a Budget

If paid-maternity leave is not an option, then it’s time to budget. Determine how many weeks of unpaid maternity leave your family can afford. Keep in mind most new mothers need six weeks to physically recover from childbirth. Take health insurance and new baby supplies into consideration when creating your budget.

  1. Determine a Plan for When You Return to Work

Before your maternity leave is over, don’t forget about childcare. When you and your partner return to work, who can you trust to care for your bundle of joy?

For mothers who balance work and childcare, live-in caregivers are an excellent solution. Grace Provider Services Postnatal Help is an example of trusted, personal caregivers that relieve mothers of stress while helping them juggle childcare and work.

Moms Helping Moms

Becoming a mom can be nerve-wracking and stressful. But it’s also a beautiful time in your life. As a new mother, you’ll want to spend as much time as you can with your newborn. Understand the average length of maternity leave, so you know exactly what to expect.

Looking for more advice for motherhood? Check out our other helpful mom-based articles. We have a variety of tips and tricks for parents of all ages.