Frequently asked questions about parental leave: what are new, working parents entitled to?

Starting a new family is such a tremendously joyous and pivotal event for many young couples.

However, it’s not all cute baby clothes, adorable family photoshoots, and capturing their first giggles, words, and steps to post incessantly on your social media feed. Becoming a new parent comes with its fair share of hardships to consider, especially if you’re working full time.

With the help of expert advice from reputable career blogs for working parents and a better understanding of Federal and State Labor Laws protecting working families, we put together a FAQS list for couples looking to add 1 more bundle of joy to their family unit come the new year.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides working parents with the relief they need after such a significant event. Find out if you’re eligible for FMLA benefits by contacting your human resources department. If you aren’t eligible for this time off to care for a new child then this article will also explore and direct you towards additional resources new parents should look into to make this huge transitional milestone an easier one.

Ladders is here to field all of your burning parental leave questions. Let’s get started with the basics: what is the Family and Medical Leave Act and what does it cover exactly?

How are new parents protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act?

The most important question for parents in the beginning stages of family planning to ask is if their company can even offer coverage and job protection under the umbrella of the Family and Medical Leave Act. There are a few specific qualifiers to check off on your employer’s end before checking if your unique situation also gives you the green light to go ahead and take those days off without jeopardizing your job or experiencing a lapse in insurance coverage.

The Family and Medical Leave Act passed during the Clinton administration back in 1993 gives employees that are properly covered by their employer the legal right to take a job-protected, unpaid sabbatical of up to 12 weeks to care for their newborn. Companies that have 50 or more employees are required by law to offer this extended benefit for parental leave. This brief covers all the bases of eligibility for leave in the following statement.

“Employees who request an FMLA leave must be employed by a covered employer, which is a private-sector employer that employs 50 or more employees for at least 20 workweeks in the current or previous year; and all state, local and federal agencies and educational agencies. This includes joint employers and successors of covered employers.”

If your company has the ability to grant you coverage under the FMLA then you can ask yourself if you meet the requirements to request this time off when the need arises. People allotted time off through the FMLA include the following groups of people and situational circumstance:

  • The birth and care of a child in the first 12 months
  • The adoption or fostering of a child for the first 12 months
  • If you need to care for an immediate family member with a serious illness (like COVID-19) This person must be a spouse, parent, or child
  • If you have a serious chronic health condition that renders you physically incapable of performing essential work duties (this can also include domestic violence cases)
  • Folks that have to care for an active military member with a serious disability or illness can also be covered under the FMLA if this person is a child, spouse, parent or next of kin (closest living blood relative)

One other qualifying factor to be eligible for FMLA coverage through your employer is that you must be employed for at least 12 months and work a minimum of 1,250 hours on the clock. If you had a break in employment due to active military duty, this does not count against you. As long as you’ve invested 12 months of work into your company within a 7 year period, you should be able to claim this time off without an issue. Proper etiquette to request a 12-week break from work duties for parental leave is typically 30 days written in advance to your supervisor.

Are there certain states or any new legislation that would offer paid parental leave?

Fortunately, there are a few states that offer paid time off for career parents looking for the best work-life balance that won’t cripple their savings account. The United States was one of the last countries to offer a federally funded break to care for a new baby. Luckily, new legislation recently took effect this year to change all of that. The states that do offer their own versions of comprehensive paid parental leave packages for new moms and dads include:

  • California
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • New Jersey
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Washington
  • Massachusetts
  • Oregon
  • Connecticut

If you’re interested in how different regions of the United States handle paid time off for parental leave or other extenuating circumstances check out the following study related to how federal and state sanctions help subsidize the costs involved with work, family, and medical needs for working-class Americans across the nation.

It might just inform your next move when you’re ready to start a family of your own!

In some recent good news for parents that are federal employees, the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act (FEPPLA) was passed in 2019 and begins to provide benefits as of Oct. 1, 2020. What does this mean for federal employees and who is eligible to claim these benefits?

The following press release gets into the specifics of the impact of the new Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act and what it means for our modern-day workforce.

“The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union proudly representing 700,000 federal and D.C. government workers nationwide and overseas. Workers in virtually all functions of government at every federal agency depend upon AFGE for legal representation, legislative advocacy, technical expertise and informational services. After many years of organizing, lobbying, and mobilizing our members, AFGE finally won 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees. The Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act (FEPPLA) was passed in 2019 and begins to provide benefits as of Oct. 1, 2020.”

Who is eligible for paid parental leave under this new legislation? If you are a federal employee who has worked 12 months and a total of at least 1,250 hours for your employer then you can request paid parental leave. Some examples of federal employees include politicians and legislative staff, civil servants and members of the armed forces.

One thing to be aware of in regards to this new law is because this law was put into effect October 1st of this year, unfortunately, those who gave birth or adopted a child a few months prior to this date cannot retroactively apply for these new benefits.

Regardless, this is still a huge win for federally employed parents to get the relief they need. It is a big step in the right direction for getting federal coverage across the board to aid working parents and offset the enormous cost of raising a child despite their employment status as a federal, full-time, or part-time employee.

Parents not eligible for federal coverage or protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act or The Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act can look into short term disability and use accrued paid time off or vacations to make ends meet. This beginner’s guide to understanding maternity leave laws outlines how short-term disability can aid those not eligible for other subsidies with the following press release.

“Short-term disability (STD) will offer you 6 weeks pay for normal childbirth and 8 weeks for a c-section. The rest of your maternity leave will be unpaid and job-protected with FMLA if you work for a qualifying company. Short-term disability typically covers 60% of your paycheck. Check with your HR manager for the details.”

There is legislation currently on the table to help all workers despite employment status accrue sick days to be used for this purpose.

“Introduced in Congress in 2019, the Healthy Families Act would require employers nationwide with 15 or more employees to provide at least one hour of earned paid sick leave for every 30 hours workers (up to a maximum of 56 hours per year). Employees would be able to use sick leave for their own illness, to care for a family member, or to address needs resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.”

The prior quote and information were originally published in this press release found here.

Do I need documentation before I can be approved for paid parental leave?

Documentation required to formally request parental leave includes the following:

  • Birth certificate
  • Adoption placement documents
  • Immigration visas or other legal documents proving the employee is either the birth mother or legal parent of the child
  • Signed agreement between you and your employer that you’ll return after 12 weeks

Some companies may require you to sign a document agreeing you will return after the 12 weeks of appointed parental leave. A legally binding document protects both of you.

This will ensure none of your benefits are disrupted during this period and it also prevents your boss from replacing you with someone else in the interim. Under the new federally paid parental leave law if you don’t return after the signed contract agreeing to the 12-week hiatus you could be fined for the amount of money paid out to you while you were gone. Just like you wouldn’t appreciate your company dropping you because you needed the time to perform one of the most challenging jobs out there, child-rearing, it’s only right to keep your word and not just cut and run after they offered a generous paid sabbatical to raise your little one.

Parental leave FAQS wrap up

I hope we covered all the relevant questions pertaining to preparing for a new family without putting your job or finances on the line. I find it particularly encouraging that there is a concerted effort to provide more paid parental leave for the workforce in the future. In fact, according to this study back in 2015, only 25% of companies offered parental leave but in 2018 that number has gone up to 40%!

Be sure to check what programs you’re eligible for to provide the best care possible for your growing family. One other important thing to keep in mind before starting a family is to make sure your emergency fund has enough money set aside should you find yourself not eligible for other parental leave programs. On the bright side, during the pandemic this year the FMLA extended benefits for those new families dealing with complications related to COVID-19 such as job loss, forced relocation, or chronic illness.