‘Reasonable’ Maternity Leave Doesn’t Matter Under FMLA

Q. Is there a law or reasonable standard regarding how many weeks maternity leave should be? And should we make that a written policy in our employee handbook? Even with FMLA, to which our employees are entitled, we thought maternity leave was either six or eight weeks, depending on type of delivery. —J.F., Pennsylvania

A. Unfortunately, you’re overlooking the most basic rules of the FMLA: The federal law gives qualified employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year. FMLA leave can be used for the birth and care of a newborn child of a female or male employee. Time taken off due to pregnancy complications can also be counted against the 12 weeks of leave. So, you can’t limit this amount of unpaid time off just by setting a company policy.

Bottom line: Get educated on the FMLA, pronto. You can start with the Labor Department’s main FMLA site, www.dol.gov/dol/topic/benefits-leave/fmla.htm. Also, speak with your attorney about specific FMLA compliance issues.