If you’re pregnant and interested in learning about your maternity leave rights in Maryland, we’ve tried to summarize the high-level things you should know about how much leave you can take and whether you have any other related maternity leave rights. Please note that we are not attorneys and created this resource to help women in the workplace; for further information please consult Maryland’s Department of Labor website.
Do I Receive Maternity Leave and for How Long?
Employers always may voluntarily provide you with maternity leave and you must check with your HR department if you’re unsure of your company’s policies. However, companies are under no legal obligation to offer any paid leave. Two laws may provide you with the right to unpaid leave, however: (1) FMLA is a federal law providing up to 12 job-protected unpaid weeks of leave to certain eligible employers, and (2) Maryland’s Parental Leave Act which provides the right to 6 weeks of unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of a child.
What Is the Maryland Parental Leave Act (PLA)?
Since October 2014, employers in Maryland with between 15 employees must provide their employees up to six weeks of unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of a child.
How Do I Find Out Whether I’m Eligible for FMLA or PLA?
To qualify for FMLA, you and your employer must meet certain eligibility criteria. You must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to leave for an employer who employees at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your worksite. If your employer has fewer than this number of employees, then you may still qualify for PLA.
To qualify for PLA, you must have worked at least 1,250 hours prior to the start of your leave for the prior 12 months and you must be employed at a work location in Maryland in which at least 15 employees work within a 75-mile radius.
Why Do I Not Receive Pay During My Leave?
The U.S. is, unfortunately, one of only two industrialized nations that does not offer any pay coverage during maternity leave. While some employers voluntarily provide this benefit, and you may take out private short-term disability insurance if you are worried about how to survive an unpaid maternity leave, the truth is that approximately only 12 percent of women in American receive any access to pay during their maternity leave. For tips on how to manage your finances during an unpaid maternity leave, please read our suggestions here.
Under PLA, you are allowed to use your accrued vacation, sick and paid time off days during your leave. In fact, your employer may require that you do this. However, if your employer offers more than one type of paid time off (e.g. sick days and personal days), you can choose to only use one type of leave for your paid time off (as opposed to all your accrued paid time off days).
Does PLA Cover Mothers and Fathers?
Yes, PLA and FMLA are both gender neutral laws so it covers maternity as well as paternity leave.
What If I Qualify for Both FMLA and PLA?
You may qualify for both FMLA and PLA, in which case you will receive a maximum of 12 weeks of paid time off. In other words, your right to job leave under both laws runs concurrently (not consecutively).
What Do I Need to Do In Order to Take Leave
We’ve written about the FMLA rules and processes here. Under PLA, you are not required to give your employer documentation for your leave, though they may request it and you may want to provide it. However, you are required to give your employer at least 30 days notice if possible. In the case of an emergency or premature birth, this 30-day rule does not apply.
What Happens to My Benefits While I’m On Leave?
Under both FMLA and PLA, your employer must continue to maintain your health plan coverage while you are on leave. If you do not return to work after your leave, your employer may recover the premiums they paid on your behalf, however.
What Are My Other Rights?
You are entitled to return to the same or equivalent position when your leave period is over. If you believe your rights have been violated, you may file a claim with the state of Maryland’s Department of Labor.
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