Maternity Leave and the Small Business Owner

By law, all businesses are required to provide a certain amount of maternity leave to employees. The time allowed for maternity leave depends on a number of factors, including state and federal regulations, eligibility, type of maternity leave, etc. For the small business owner, maternity leave has a much greater impact than it does on a larger corporation. If a small business only has a few employees, losing one for a few months is going to have a huge impact, not to mention the fact that setting up a maternity leave policy is a confusing proposition at best. Here are some of the things you need to know about before creating a maternity leave policy for your small business.

Federal and State Laws

The first thing you need to look into are the federal and state laws, which can get pretty confusing, especially for the small business owner. For instance, if you have 50 or more employees, you are required by federal law to provide at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave, both for childbirth and for the adoption of a child. If you have fewer than 50 employees, the Federal government doesn’t require you to provide this maternity leave. But, you may still be required to provide this benefit, under certain circumstances.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires employers to treat all pregnant employees as they would treat employees who have temporary disabilities if a woman is unable to perform all of her duties due to her pregnancy. There are also state laws, which are completely separate from federal regulations. For instance, under the California Family Rights Act, employers must provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave, and in some cases they are required to also provide six weeks of paid leave.
You can learn more about your state requirements by visiting the US Department of Labor website. States that do have maternity policy requirements are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, and Washington.


“The next consideration is eligibility, as it is not only pregnant women who are eligible for maternity or parental leave. Your maternity/paternity leave policy will need to be explicit about who is eligible for this leave,” says an expert from Forest Hills Medical ServicesFMLA regulations require that employees must work a minimum of 12 months or 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months to qualify for 12 weeks of unpaid leave. But, if you have 50 employees or less, the amount of unpaid leave is at your own discretion (or applicable state laws) for your company policy.

Types of Maternity Leave

Once you have figured out the amount of time that employees are going to be able to have for maternity leave, you need to consider the various types of maternity leave in order to create your company policy. There are three types of maternity leave:
  • Intermittent Leave – This is short-term leave, to cover medical appointments, emergencies, etc.
  • Reduced Schedule Leave – This is when the employee still works, but reduces their hours to fit in with their physical needs.
  • Block of Time Leave – This is when the employee needs an extended period of time away from work, usually granted after childbirth or if there are complications during the pregnancy.

Paid Leave

Finally, you need to decide whether or not you are going to offer paid leave. While this is not a federal or state requirement, many companies do offer this to their employees. If you have valued employees who you want to see return to your company, paid maternity leave is definitely a good incentive to offer.

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