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Updated on Monday, November 23, 2015
While some companies are on the fast track to ensuring that the working moms they employee receive a fair amount of time off for maternity leave (we’re looking at you Adobe, with your 26 weeks of paid leave for birth moms and up to 16 weeks paid parental leave for new fathers who are the primary caregivers), the U.S. still stands essentially alone in the fact that there is no mandated paid maternity leave for our workers.
In fact, the only mandatory leave allowed to new mothers falls under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and it only includes 12 weeks of unpaid coverage, and it’s limited to employees who work for a company with some very specific factors. Check out more about FMLA and individual maternity leave policies by state here.
So, unless you do happen to work for a company that understands how important it is for a mom to have a decent amount of time off after giving birth, it’s mostly left to employees themselves to figure out how to work the system. One benefit that new moms have in their back pocket that they might not even know about, however, is short-term disability leave.
Short-term Disability Insurance
Short-term disability insurance is typically an insurance plan offered by employers that covers the first 3-6 months of missed time. (If you’re wondering about the differences between short and long-term disability insurance policies, check out this story about the two options.) This type of insurance will essentially cover either a portion or all of your salary during a time when you can’t work because of illness, injury or childbirth.
If your employer or union doesn’t offer short-term disability insurance, check to see if there are individual plans offered through your state (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island mandate that disability insurance requirements be made available to residents.) If none of these are options, you can purchase an outside policy (or additional coverage if what you’re offered through those three suggestions above isn’t enough) for a monthly fee, although finding a policy that will cover you outside of work can be difficult.
While every company will have its own policy, and it’ll be important that you check with yours before settling on a plan that you think works best for you, using short-term disability to cover some of your maternity leave — especially if your company doesn’t have a good maternity leave policy — can be essential. Even with a short maternity leave plan at work, if you can combine your leave with sick, vacation and/or holiday time, as well as your short-term disability leave, then you just might be able to come up with a maternity leave duration that you’re comfortable with.
The Potential Pitfall
One caveat — if you plan to look into an additional short-term disability plan if your company doesn’t offer one or if you’d just like additional benefits, be sure to do this before you become pregnant, as pregnancy could void your ability to join.