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When you’re thinking about having a baby, or are already pregnant, certain practical issues are bound to accompany the good news. For most working people, many questions will revolve around finances and time away from work, such as pay, maternity leave, and job security. In the United States, federal laws do not require employers to provide paid maternity leave, so learning about your state’s laws and employer-provided disability insurance is an important first step.

Here are some helpful answers to questions on the topics of pregnancy, disability insurance, the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), and maternity leave.

What is the FMLA, and how does it impact your leave from work during pregnancy?  

The The FMLA is a federal law that will protect your job (if you work for a company with more than 50 employees in a 75-mile radius) for up to 12 weeks of absence during a 12-month period in most circumstances for family or medical leave, including maternity. While away, you would receive payment for unused PTO, vacation time, and sick days you’re owed depending on your company’s policy, but no other wages. A handful of states do offer limited paid leave, so make sure to check your state’s regulations carefully. 1 For more information on the FMLA, click here.

What’s Short-Term Disability insurance and how does it impact maternity leave?

Some employers offer insurance programs that in effect provide you with some financial protection while you’re out on maternity  leave.  Short-term disability policies vary, but might provide 50-100% of your income for about six weeks after you give birth, eight weeks due to a C-section, and potentially longer if there are complications, depending upon the employer’s policy. Benefits may be paid past those time limits if the medical reports indicate that for medical reasons you can’t work. There may be a requirement that you first apply for disability insurance in your state, or to other insurance plans you may have, so it’s extremely important to find out how well you’re covered in advance.2  Your employer’s Human Resources manager should be able to advise you on the correct ways to submit claims for private or state insurance.

How can you prepare financially?

If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA) at your job, consider putting more into it with each paycheck. This money is deducted without being taxed, making it financially advantageous, and can be spent on a wide range of out-of-pocket medical expenses like co-pays and deductibles. If possible, try cutting back sick days, personal days, and time off to build up paid vacation time to supplement your maternity leave. Also, consider additional insurance policies that may be available though your job. Look at Hospitalization Indemnity policies which can be taken out of your paycheck automatically and offer financial protection in terms of hospital admission due to complications from the pregnancy or delivery. This type of coverage will vary depending on your plan.

What questions should I ask my human resources manager at work? 

Companies vary a lot when it comes to maternity coverage. Contact your company’s Human Resources department — ideally well ahead of time as you could lose eligibility if you miss your employers deadline — to learn what you can expect and how best to prepare.  Ask specifically about the effect of pregnancy and maternity leave on your pay and also, about the type of notice you will need to give the employer in order to secure your job. Companies are evolving their coverage in this area so it is important to understand the specifics of what your company offers.

It’s exciting that you’re entering a wonderful new stage in your life. Understanding your finances and knowing how to protect your income can help make that time even better. 

Material discussed is meant for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, the information should be relied upon only when coordinated with individual professional advice.

An Introduction to the Family and Medical Leave Act, US Dep’t of Labor

Guardian PDF: Group Short Term Disability FAQ’s.

Alicia Adamczyk, “These Are The Companies With Best Parental Leave,” Money, Nov.4, 2015. 

This material is intended for general public use. By providing this material, Guardian is not undertaking to provide investment advice for any specific individual or situation, or to otherwise act in a fiduciary capacity. Please contact a financial professional for guidance and information specific to your individual situation.