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What Do Healthcare Employers Need to Know About Maternity Leave?

Employers should be aware that maternity and paternity leave are both important components of a comprehensive family leave policy.

While paternity leave usually just includes time off for the new father to bond with their child, maternity leave typically provides a mother the time off needed to recover physically and emotionally from childbirth, as well as time to bond with her new baby.

Employers should also be aware of their obligations under federal and state laws, which can include providing job protection and pay for some new parents during their leave.

Employers should consider offering additional paid and/or unpaid leave beyond what is required by law in order to provide employees with the support and flexibility they need to balance their work and family life.

Recommended Reading: Employee Leave of Absence: Everything You Need to Know

I Found Out My Employee is Pregnant. Now What?

Employers in the dental, optometry, and veterinary industries should take care to ensure that pregnant employees are treated fairly, with compassion and respect. They should ensure that the employee is provided with a safe and comfortable work environment that meets all the relevant health and safety requirements. 

As an employer, you should work with your pregnant employee to help them manage their workload and any necessary changes to their role or hours. It's helpful for employers to request a doctor's note immediately to help prepare for the dates of maternity leave. When applicable and resources are available, employers can also consider hiring a temp employee to cover for the employee who will be out on leave.

Be sure to inform your pregnant employees of their rights, such as maternity leave and pay, and any other benefits or accommodations that may be available to them.

How Should Employers Document Maternity or Paid Family Leave Requests?

Any maternity or paid family leave request should be detailed accurately. This should include:

1) When the employee is leaving

2) When they are returning

3) Any accommodations for work they need in the meantime

4) Other pertinent information

The information should remain confidential, as required by law. Be sure to have clear policies in place that explain your process for handling such requests and provide clear guidance to the employee on how to proceed.

An HR software like HR for Health can help document and store these details in each employee record properly.

What are the Federal and State Laws Around Maternity Leave?

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides many workers with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. Eligibility is determined by the size of the business and the number of hours you have worked in the preceding 12 months. It also provides eligible employees with job protection and the ability to continue their health benefits while on leave. Contact HR for Health to learn more about your specific rights under the FMLA.

Many states have leave requirements similar to FMLA but encompass smaller employers, such as dentists, optometrists, chiropractors, and other medical practices. Most maternity leave is unpaid but employees may be able to collect benefits from the state as wage reimbursement or employees can use their paid leave (if they have any) during the time they are out.

What Kind of Breaks Should Working Mothers Get While on the Job?

Working mothers should be allowed to take regular breaks throughout the day to tend to their needs and those of their families. Breaks should be tailored to the individual's situation and could include things like breaks for pumping, breastfeeding, and attending to childcare needs.

If requested by the employee, you should try to provide mothers with flexible scheduling options, such as job-sharing, telecommuting, or reduced hours, so that they can better balance their home and work lives. If medical accommodations are requested, employers must adhere to these professional orders.

What Obligations Do Employers Have for Pregnant Employees or Those That Have Come Back from Maternity Leave?

Generally, healthcare employers must treat pregnant employees and those returning from maternity leave the same as any other employee. Your employees should be allowed to return with the same hours, same rate of pay, and same position as before their leave.

Your employees must also have the same access to benefits, opportunities, and job security.

You should make reasonable adjustments to accommodate an employee’s pregnancy or maternity leave. This could include allowing employees to work part-time or from home, providing additional breaks, or adjusting working hours to accommodate doctor’s appointments.

Check in with your existing team and returning employees to communicate your zero-tolerance policy for any discrimination or harassment in the workplace.

Can I Fire an Employee for Taking a Longer Maternity Leave Than Expected?

It depends...

Check the policies and laws in your state.

Generally speaking, most employers cannot fire an employee for taking a more extended maternity leave than expected, as there are laws in place to protect employees from this type of discrimination. However, there may be some exceptions depending on the employer's policies and the laws in the jurisdiction. It is best to speak to a lawyer or HR professional to ensure that you understand your rights as an employer and your employee's rights in your practice.

How HR for Health Can Help

HR for Health can help streamline the process of managing maternity, paternity, and paid family leave.

Our all-in-one software solution can help track and manage employee leave requests, track and update employee leave balances, and notify employees when they are eligible for leave.

We also remind supervisors, managers, and employees of relevant deadlines related to the leave.

By having all the information in one place, HR for Health's software helps to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations and provides a seamless and efficient way to manage the leave process.

To learn more, schedule an HR consultation with us by booking time here or calling us at (888) 316-9284.

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