Like many other aspects of employment, there are many requirements and laws surrounding maternity leave. Some Federal laws, such as FMLA, apply to maternity and paternity leave. Beyond that, there are discrimination laws and state laws that also apply. Here are some of the most important things for employers to know about maternity leave: 

Required Leave 

Under FMLA (the Family Medical Leave Act) all employers with over 50 employees are required to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave for events like childbirth or caring for a newborn. These 12 weeks are available to all employees of qualified employers who have worked for the company for at least one year and worked a minimum of 1,250 hours. Some states have laws about maternity leave beyond FMLA. Consult your state department of labor to ensure full compliance with leave laws that may include maternity.

If you don’t offer FMLA, you are required to treat disability related to pregnancy the same as you would any other medical leave and accommodation requests for disability. If you would provide leave/accommodation for an employee with a back injury, you must do the same for an employee with pregnancy- related conditions including recovery from birth or the need for bedrest.

Discrimination Laws 

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prevents any discrimination at work based on pregnancy or related medical conditions. Under this act, employers aren’t allowed to fire, refuse to hire, or require higher health insurance payments from pregnant employees. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act also requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees having difficulty performing their jobs.  

Policy Creation 

It is wise to create a written maternity/paternity leave policy so you are prepared before an employee requests this type of leave. This policy should include the duration of the leave, if the leave is paid or unpaid, and how it applies to both parents. Even if you choose to do nothing more than required by law, it is still a good idea to create a policy so there is no confusion.  

Employee Impact 

Offering maternity leave beyond what is required by law can be a perk that attracts employees to your organization, but it does not come without its pitfalls. Carefully consider the logistics of maternity and paternity leave in your company to best help your employees.  

Understanding the legal side of things like maternity leave can be tricky. Reach out to Helpside at if you have any questions.