The United States is the only developed country that doesn’t mandate paid maternity (parental) leave on a national level. And although three states, including California and New Jersey, require paid parental leave, Florida does not. As a result, if your company does not offer paid time off for expecting and new mothers, you have to rely on a combination of sick leave, vacation and personal days, and short-term disability to take time off to give birth and then care for your newborn child.
Another option for employees is to take unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. If your company has 50 or more employees within 75 miles of the office and you work in the private sector, you may be eligible to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year under the FMLA to care for your newborn, for pregnancy-related absences or to care for a newly adopted child. (If you are a Florida state employee, you may be able to take up to six months of unpaid parental leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child, or to care for one’s own or a spouse’s pregnancy disability or recovery from childbirth.)
Top Questions about Maternity Leave in Florida
What Does FMLA Leave Cover?
In addition to providing unpaid leave to give birth to and take care of a newborn child, FMLA leave covers:
- time off for prenatal care and incapacity related to pregnancy (such as severe morning sickness),
- serious medical conditions related to pregnancy,
- placement and care of an adopted or foster care child, and
- extended parental leave for both parents
Further, an individual may take leave to take care of a spouse who has a serious health condition or because of complications related to her pregnancy. Leave can be used for up to one year after the birth or adoption of the child.
Who Is Eligible for Maternity Leave in Florida Under the FMLA?
In addition to meeting the requirements mentioned above, employees have to have worked at least 1,250 hours for their employer during a 12-month period (though the service does not have to be continuous). If both parents work for the same company (and they are married), they may only be eligible for 12 weeks combined; though that doesn’t include taking time off for a serious health condition or incapacitation.
Are Employees Required to Notify Their Employers That They Are Going to Take FMLA Leave?
The FMLA has certain notice requirements employees have to provide their employers. Eligible employees may be required to give:
- Adequate information as to why leave is needed.
- When the need is foreseeable, 30-day advance notice to take FMLA leave.
- When the need is not foreseeable, notice must be given “as soon as practicable,” which typically means one or two business days.
- If an employer was not notified that leave was taken for FMLA reasons, but the employee wants it counted that way, notice must be given within two days of returning to work.
Can You Be Denied FMLA Leave in Florida if You’re Pregnant?
Under the FMLA, employers are required to provide expecting mothers and fathers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period. The only circumstances in which an eligible employee could be denied leave are if he/she doesn’t produce supporting medical certification for a serious health condition or does not meet the FMLA’s notice requirements mentioned above.
Also, employers don’t have to continue FMLA benefits if they are going to layoff an employee during that 12-week period; for example, a general layoff that affects other people in the company. Similarly, if an employee gives notice that he/she doesn’t plan to return to work after the 12-week period, that individual would be denied benefits.
How Does Short-term Disability Work in Relation to Maternity Leave in Florida?
Florida does not have state-sponsored short-term disability coverage, nor does it require employers to offer it to its employees. If an employer does not offer short-term disability insurance to cover time off during pregnancy, employees must purchase a private policy. Unfortunately, most private policies only cover serious medical conditions and incapacity related to pregnancy.
As a general rule, it’s important to note that employees have to purchase coverage at least 9 to 10 months (prior to conception) before they give birth because pregnancy is classified as a pre-existing condition and most insurance carriers will not pay claims during the exclusionary period. Coverage typically lasts between 6 and 8 weeks, depending on the type of delivery, and pays out between 50%-100% of an employee’s salary.
Can You Take Paid and Unpaid Maternity Leave in Florida?
If your employer offers paid maternity leave in Florida, it will run simultaneously with your FMLA leave. If the employer offers leave (paid or unpaid) for other medical conditions, illnesses and disabilities, it must offer them for pregnancy-related issues.
Can You Lose Your Job if You Take FMLA Leave?
It’s against the law for an employer to deny you the rights you have under the FMLA. If you take FMLA leave, your employer cannot use it as a negative factor in any employment action, including firing you for taking it. Furthermore, your employer cannot discriminate against or fire you if you complain that they violated the protections afforded to you under the FMLA. If you feel you’ve been fired for taking FMLA leave or have been subject to pregnancy discrimination in any fashion, you may want to consult an employment attorney to discuss your options.
Under federal and Florida laws, pregnant employees and their spouses are protected from discriminatory practices at work. For more information on this topic, download our free Guide to Protecting Yourself Against Pregnancy Discrimination eBook. And if you have any further questions regarding maternity leave, Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., is here to help. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.