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Pregnancy Leave Laws—What You Need to Know

By March 10, 2017November 28th, 2018Employment Law, Pregnancy Leave

With the new Trump administration comes updated plans and approaches, and one issue currently up in the air is pregnancy leave. A few proposals under consideration could potentially impact small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Following is a rundown of the current situation.

As many business owners recognize, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires organizations with 50 or more employees within 75 miles to provide 12 weeks per year of unpaid job protection for maternity leave or other family medical issues. However, the FMLA does not require employers to provide paid leave. During his presidential campaign, President Trump unveiled a proposal to offer six weeks of paid maternity leave to biological mothers after a birth—but not to fathers and potentially not to adoptive mothers. More recently, Trump has suggested he may expand paid leave to include fathers.

What This Means for Your Business

As reported in CNN, the New York Times, and other prominent media outlets. Trump proposed to fund the program through the unemployment compensation system, which is the most reasonable means, from Marathon’s perspective. Such a program would allow employers to spread out the cost of the pregnancy leave benefit, funding it through unemployment tax payments rather than bearing the financial burden for each employee as the need arises. How this will shake out is still unknown, and in the meantime, business owners should be considering the many other issues surrounding pregnancy leave.

  1. The EEOC’s current pregnancy enforcement guidance states that providing only mothers with benefits beyond “pregnancy-related medical leave” amounts to discrimination. Additionally, the verdict is out on whether or not same-sex spouses must also be eligible for paid benefits, if they are offered.
  2. To ensure fair and equitable treatment, employers that offer leave, paid or unpaid, should develop policies that specify the time period and any benefits associated with them. Currently, there are no federal or state requirements for these policies beyond the unpaid leave specified in the FMLA.
  3. Business owners should consider how they will fill the role of workers on leave. Work can be spread among other workers or a temporary employee can fill the need. If there is any doubt that the worker will return and the position involves a high level of skill or trust, business owners might want to identify someone within the company that could be promoted into the role. Test him or her during the leave period (without making a commitment) and use a temporary worker to fill the lower-skill position.

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