There are a variety of laws at both the state and federal levels that address the issue of maternity leave.  Also known as parental leave or family leave, maternity leave is the time that a parent takes away from work during the birth and/or the adoption process, as well as related time before and after the birth or the adoption. 

Maternity leave laws do not require an employer to continue to pay an employee who is not at work.  However, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, sometimes known as FMLA, does grant twelve weeks of medical leave in which your job is protected.  This sort of leave does not apply to companies that are smaller, and this maternity leave law does not require employers to pay someone for this leave.

Maternity leave laws like the Family and Medical Leave act only apply if you have worked for your current employer for at least one year, and at least 1,250 hours in the course of that year.  It also only applies if you work for a government agency or for any other company that has fifty or more employees that work within seventy-five miles of the place that you work at.

For the most part, maternity leave can often be paid time using a combination of sick days, personal days, vacation days, and even short-term disability.  Some states, however, do not allow short-term disability leave to apply to maternity laws.  However, some states do have more aggressive maternity leave laws.  California, for example, has passed legislation that requires employers to provide some benefits to a woman on maternity leave.   

The most important thing is for you to know exactly what your employer’s policy is in regard to maternity leave.  You should find out if the Family and Medical Leave Act applies to your specific employer.  You should find out if you will qualify for Short-Term Disability pay while you are out on maternity leave.  You should find out if you will be required to use sick days, vacation days, and/or personal days during your maternity leave.

Maternity Leave Laws