Q: I just joined a new company in August, 2017. I am having my second child in December. I met with my HR Rep and she informed me that I was ineligible for 12 weeks of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. This was a shocker, since I was covered by FMLA for my first child. The company is a larger employer, so I am really upset that I will not get 12 weeks. What can I do? Do I get any time off? What happens with my pay during a leave of absence?
A: Congratulations on your pregnancy! You are correct that the birth of a child is one of the reasons many employees can apply for and receive a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. An FMLA leave is a job-protected leave of up to 12 weeks. FMLA is a federal law which applies to most employers with 50 or more employees. However, the law has very specific reasons for when a leave can be taken. One reason is the birth or adoption of a child.
There are some additional requirements for an FMLA leave. One of them is having 12 months of service with your employer. From what you have described, you fall short of the 12 months of service. The service requirement is the most likely reason you are ineligible for an FMLA leave.
Assuming you are working in Massachusetts, you are may be eligible for a leave under the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act. This law requires an employer to offer you up to 8 weeks of time off, provided that you have completed the introductory period with your company (which can’t exceed three months).
The Massachusetts Parental Leave law does not require an employer to compensate an employee for any leave. Some states have a state disability program for residents, but Massachusetts is not one of those states. However, many employers offer short-term disability insurance which may offer some income replacement. Also, many employers include some type of paid sick time to employee, and a parental leave is a legitimate reason to use unused but accrued sick time. Also, you can explore using personal time or vacation time during a leave. For a complete summary of the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act, visit https://www.mass.gov/service-details/parental-leave-in-massachusetts.
Familiarize yourself with the Massachusetts Parental Leave law. You are required to give notice (two weeks) should you wish to take advantage of the leave. Most employers only require a quick email but you should verify how your employer requests that notice. Also, ask your employer if a short-term disability program is available to employees. There will be a separate application process for the short-term disability insurance, if that is an employee benefit at your company.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.