Do teachers get paid maternity leave?

As of 2019, there is no U.S federal law that mandates paid maternity leave for teachers. What many teachers have in their favor regarding federal law, however, is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which grants up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees. Individual states may have their own maternity leave laws.

Understanding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

You’ve maybe heard your teacher colleagues talk about those 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that grants up to 12 unpaid weeks off from work for certain family and medical reasons.

Adding to that, this law gives one job security and immunity from being penalized for taking that time off.  

The one caveat is that you must be eligible.

How do you know if you’re eligible?

  • Your school/district employs over 50 people within 75 miles of your work location, AND
  • You’ve worked for the employer for at least 12 months, AND
  • You’ve worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months

Keep in mind that some states have their own laws regarding paid maternity leave (so check what they are in your state), and individual schools may offer some type of compensation to expectant parents.

As far as job security goes, schools may have special provisions for tenured employees. 

Visit the Human Resources department to understand what options are available to you.        

So what if I don’t meet the requirements of the FMLA?

You can wait until you’re eligible or research what options are available to you at your place of employment.

Further on in this post, I offer practical solutions for those who will experience unpaid maternity leave. 

Regardless, you’ll need to be very money-smart about this situation. Plan ahead by discussing your specific situation with HR or talk with colleagues who have experienced a similar situation.                    

Getting Paid for Maternity Leave Often Means Using Sick and Vacation Days

It’s common for teachers to use whatever sick and vacation days that have and then take the remaining days as unpaid.

The 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the FMLA and the sick days that you take may run concurrently, so check with your school to see how it handles this. Also note that the number of paid sick days that you actually get to use will most likely depend on your doctor’s approval, so investigate this.

Obviously, using sick and vacation days works out better for teachers who’ve accumulated a lot of sick and vacation time. 

Unfortunately, first-time parents may not have accumulated enough sick days to get paid maternity leave. 

And parents experiencing their second or third birth may have already used up all of their sick/vacation days.

For teachers new to a school or district, the lack of eligible days creates a disadvantage.

It could take a significant amount of time (possibly a few years) to amass enough days to be able to take the weeks needed for a paid maternity leave. 

Because of this, consider borrowing future sick and vacation days, if that option is available to you.

Your school may even allow teachers to donate their sick/vacation days to a general maternity/medical-leave pool that is then used to cover leave time for employees who may not have enough days of their own.

Every school is different. Investigate thoroughly the laws in your state and the policies at your school.

Are these scenarios the perfect situation? Probably not, but you can make it work.

Here are some other options.

What about Using Short-Term Disability Insurance for Paid Maternity Leave?

This is an option that affords some type of paid maternity leave.

Some schools don’t have a formal maternity-leave policy in place. 

They instead encourage teachers to claim short-term disability in order to receive some type of payment during their time off.

Using short-term disability, you’ll get a certain percentage of your salary during the time you’re out.

The number of weeks eligible to be paid at this percentage rate depends on whether it’s a vaginal delivery or c-section.

Other schools allow you to take as much time as needed, with doctor’s approval.

Your 12 weeks of unpaid time off under the FMLA may run concurrently with the time you have off under short-term disability. Discuss this with the HR department so that you’re fully aware of what’s going to happen.

Are There Any Other Options Available for Paid Maternity Leave?

While your district may not provide a full salary during your maternity leave, they may allow differential pay after sick and vacation days have been used up.

This simply means you’ll get a paycheck but will have deductions taken out which are used to cover the expense of hiring a substitute.

When Do Teachers Usually Take Their Maternity Leave Days?

This depends on the teacher and the school. Some teachers work right up to their due dates while others take off a bit earlier in order to prepare for the big day!

Realize that some teachers work right up until their due date only because they aren’t eligible for paid maternity leave and consequently need every workday to count.

Do Male Teachers Get Paternity Leave?

Fortunately, men are also eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid paternity leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

They must meet the same guidelines regarding length of employment (12 months), hours worked in a year (at least 1,250 hours), and number of employees at a school (over 50) within a 75-mile radius.

Do Teachers Get Paid Maternity Leave? Some Districts are Rather Generous

Wouldn’t it be nice to get paid maternity leave without having to worry about sick days or short-term disability?

Some schools are already doing that!

Starting in the fall of 2018, New York City public school teachers have access to paid parental leave. Parents will get a full salary for six weeks! That’s really amazing.

Maybe other U.S public school districts will soon follow. 

Actively campaigning for the cause and voicing issues to state and local representatives could have some positive effects in the long run. 

What Do I Do If I’m Not Eligible for Paid Maternity Leave?

If you’re not yet pregnant…

  • If possible, wait until you’ve accumulated enough sick and vacation days.
  • See if you can apply for short-term disability insurance so that at least you can get a percentage of your salary.
  • Start saving those coins! Even if you have short-term disability, that may not be enough to cover your living expenses.  Saving a little each month (say $100) is better than nothing. Over a year’s time, that $1,200!
  • Investigate to determine if your school has a vacation/sick day “loan” program. I once worked at a school that permitted teachers with a surplus of sick and vacation days to donate theirs to colleagues who needed that time for medical purposes. I thought it was such a great idea!
  • If you have a significant other, is it possible to just live off of one paycheck until you are able to get back to work?

If you’re already pregnant…

  • Start putting aside some money each month.  A little bit goes a long way.
  • If you have a significant other, see if he or she is eligible for paid parental leave through his/her employer. No, you won’t get ample recovery and bonding time that’s paid, but you’ll have someone there to help with the baby while you continue working.
  • Seek family member assistance. Mom, grandma, mother-in-law? Dad? Ask if anyone in the family is willing and able to give time for a few weeks so that you can get back to work. 
  • See if you’re eligible for short-term disability.
  • If you can, consider an online part-time job that you can do from home. While VipKid is a good company that pays relatively well, it can take a while to actually get work. Do yourself a favor and consider working for English First (EF) instead.
  • The pay is decent and the atmosphere very laid back. You’ll definitely be able to work around your baby’s schedule if needed.
  • Living in a two-earner household? Together, analyze your financial situation to determine if living off one income for a couple of months is feasible.

What If I Choose to Nurse My Baby?

You’re in luck!

Even if you don’t get paid maternity leave, you’ll have some breastfeeding options.

With the signing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, employers are now required to provide reasonable break time for a mother so that she can nurse her baby or express breast milk.

This period of accommodation has to be provided to you for a duration of one year after the child’s birth.

Also, your school must designate a place for you to express milk, a place other than a bathroom. 

Keep in mind that an employer with less than 50 employees may not have to comply with this requirement.

Look to see if your employer is required to follow this nursing requirement.

Note that this is a federal provision. State laws may give teachers better protections.

As of January 2019, 29 states (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wyoming) plus the District of Columbia have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace.

Be sure to thoroughly research what your state provides.

Conclusion

For many soon-to-be parents, among the joys and celebration of a new addition to the family lurk the financial stress that a new life brings.

Now that you’re no longer wondering, “Do teachers get paid maternity leave?”, I hope this article provided you with the guidance you need to make some money-smart decisions about your maternity leave situation.

Until paid maternity leave is federally mandated, (if that every happens) teachers and other professionals alike must deal with this issue at a state and local (meaning your place of employment) level.

As a teacher, if you think for one moment that you might get pregnant, make sure that you know all the factors related to maternity leave in your school.

You don’t want one of the most significant moments in your life to be marred by financial anxiety.

You owe it to yourself and your new addition (s) to be money smart!

Do teachers get paid maternity leave in your school?

Wishing you much teacher happiness!

~Missi

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