Small Business Maternity Leave Policy & Laws – With Examples

Cody Cromwell
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When a Maternity Leave Policy Is Required

Business owners are responsible for ensuring that their employees are given adequate time to recover and provide for their newborn. In order to be aware of state and local regulations, it is wise for every business owner to get in touch with a lawyer or an insurance agent who is knowledgeable about the types of businesses you operate in order to determine which of the following laws apply to your business:

Maternity Protection Act of 1977

This law applies to job-protected employees. It requires employers to provide women with maternity leave that starts between 15 and 20 weeks before her estimated due date. Employers are also required to allow job-protected employees to work shifts, work part-time while pregnant, and take unpaid leave to recover from childbirth.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

This law applies to job-unprotected and part-time workers, and it requires employers to provide maternity leave (which is not same as maternity protection leave). If you are a supervisor or manager, you are not allowed to refuse to hire a woman who has just given birth if there was another female employee who was scheduled to leave the same position.

State Laws

Maternity Leave Policy Required For Companies With > 50 Employees

In the United States, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with medical issues. This includes pregnant employees, healthy employees with complications with pregnancy, employees on leave, and those who need time off to look after a sick family member. In the event an employee needs time off to care for herself or her family, the employer has to provide her with sufficient leave time or a reasonable accommodation.

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), if the leave is medically necessary to ensure the employee’s health and safety, or the health of a family member, it needs to be paid. However, employers do not need to pay for a shorter duration of time. As long as an employer is able to effectively screen employees for medical conditions to prevent and mitigate the detrimental effects of the conditions, they can deny the request for vacation time off.

Reasonable accommodations include, for example, needing to work part-time, extending the duration of a work shift, or changing your job duties. However, according to the EEOC, reasonable accommodations do not have to be paid.

According to the EEOC: •…Pregnancy is a "condition that can render a substantially larger portion of the workforce … temporarily èunemployable.…"

Pregnancy Discrimination Act Affects Companies With > 15 Employees

Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was passed in 1978, with the goal of preventing employers from discriminating against pregnant women in the workplace. The PDA specifically prohibits sex-based discrimination, which means that a pregnant woman or a woman who recently gave birth cannot be denied any job opportunity, promotion, pay, or job benefit based on her pregnancy alone.

The PDA applies to all companies with more than 15 employees. This does not affect small businesses. Private employers can lawfully exclude or treat pregnancy differently than other temporary disabilities, such as the need for medical leave, from their temporary disability policies.

The PDA does not apply to educational institutions. Academic policies cannot treat pregnancy differently than other temporary disabilities.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act is applied differently depending on the length of the pregnancy. Whether you are 9 months, 10 months, 11 months or even 12 weeks pregnant, you cannot be refused certain job related benefits, such as office flex time, a flexible work schedule, shorter commute, light duty, a regular work day with enhanced job duties, a transfer to a different job position, any job benefits, etc.

What Changes When You Are Expecting a Child?

Some States Have Additional Parental Leave Requirements

Other states have their own rules regarding employee paid maternity leave. For example, in California other than the federally mandated 12 week paid leave, some employers may have to offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of a child.

Whereas, in Texas, If the employee gives birth to a child after 24 weeks of service, and before the first 12 weeks of service, the employer is only required to pay for six weeks of leave.

In addition to paid leave, some states mandate that the employer provide unpaid leave for employees who need time off to bond with the newborn baby. In Massachusetts, an employer is legally obligated to provide a reasonable amount of unpaid parental leave for new parents. Employers are not required to provide anyone with longer than 48 hours of paid parental leave.

Some states mandate that employers also offer unpaid leave to employees who need time off after an injury or surgery, or for medical treatment.

Some states, like Louisiana, have passed legislation protecting the rights of pregnant workers who need time off to recover from childbirth.

An employer can modify the leave policy to accommodate an employee, but the changes must be made in writing and must adhere to the state’s parental leave regulations.

All states have laws requiring employers to provide their employees with certain benefits but there is no constitutional or federal requirement that requires employers to provide paid maternity leave.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) not only guarantees protection against employer retaliation by pregnant women when they take a given leave but also provides employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to take care of a new child or family member.

Why don’t employers have to provide their employees with paid maternity leave?

The FMLA was passed by Congress in 1993 during a period of strong support for employee benefits and employee protection from discrimination. The purpose of the FMLA was to extend insurance benefits and assistance to employees when a child was born or adopted. The FMLA, which expired on September 30, 2009, covered employees of FMLA qualifying employers and was designed to allow women to stay at home to care for their newborn child. The FMLA protected pregnant women against:

  • Displacement,
  • Termination,

Adverse action.

Employers were only required by law to allow up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn child. With the expiration of the FMLA on September 30, 2009, there is no longer a federal mandate requiring employers to offer unpaid maternity leave.

States are free to require employers to offer paid maternity leave. These are typically offered in the form of:

Workers Compensation,

What Other Businesses Do to Manage Maternity Leave

While some small businesses have maternity leave policies in place, it’s the minority. Other business owners are unaware of the laws that govern maternity leave in the first place and many do not have any maternity leave policies that would apply to them regardless of their business or personal status.

So, what are these laws and how can they help you or your small business? You can understand the regulations governing maternity leave and whether or not your business is covered.

This knowledge will be particularly useful if you are a business owner and need to understand whether or not your business falls within the agencies that mandate that it provides maternity leave for all its employees.

And whether or not you need to provide maternity leave, you’ll want to know if your business is eligible for paid leave. In this article, we’re going to take a look at the types of businesses that need maternity leave and work permits, work certain conditions for receiving maternity leave, and don’t offer paid sick leave.

After reading this article, you can better understand your business’s maternity leave policy and whether it has the capacity to accommodate you and your family.

Workplace Maternity In this day and age, it is critical for any business executive, mom, or expecting mother to acknowledge that – because of the present market conditions, and the concerns for the business future and the personal future of the family members – maternity leave among employees should be adequately respected and accordingly granted.

Most companies don’t provide paid maternity leave for their employees. In fact, according to a new study, only one-third of Fortune 1000 companies in the U.S. offer paid maternity leave.

Although this should come as no surprise when you realize that more than one-quarter of new mothers in the U.S. return to work within two months of giving birth. This is detrimental to the employee and to the company. Some mothers question their ability to return to their previous roles in a matter of weeks after giving birth. Also, some employers are concerned that new mothers may be distracted from the main job responsibilities of the business. Thus, this hinders the business productivity.

The good news, however, is that there are steps you can take to negotiate maternity leave arrangements with your company. The laws surrounding the issue vary from state to state. However, there is a blueprint for maternity leave.

This article will outline exactly what you need to do to get maternity leave for yourself and your family.

Paid Maternity Leave Policy Template

New mothers in the company are entitled to a minimum 3-6 weeks of paid maternity leave. Parents are also encouraged to use a portion of their paid vacation during this time. Parental leave is up to the discretion of the supervisor and is at the discretion of the employee with the mother’s approval. Pregnant mothers may be granted up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off.

Termination of Pregnancy Covered by Insurance Policy

You can request coverage from your insurance plan to cover the cost of the termination of a pregnancy. Your primary care physician’s fees for the procedure will be covered by your primary care physician’s insurance.

Expected Baby Gender

Your name will be added to the other spouses on the insurance policy. Please fill out a form after birth indicating the baby’s name and gender. After birth the husband will need to fill out a form indicating the name and gender.

Pregnancy Protector

Your husband is required to sign a declaration that he is in agreement with your request for insurance coverage. Your request may be denied if you have been sexually promiscuous, or if you’re a high-risk carrier.


Unpaid Maternity Leave Policy Template

All pregnant women should be allowed to take maternity leave, not limited to women who are employed. If you are not allowed to take Maternity leave because of your job responsibilities, then you should be compensated for your lost wages and you should be allowed to go on to embark on any career path while taking the unpaid leave. This is the only safe option, as you need this time for physical and mental recovery.

Discharged Employee Policy

After your Delivery, the company should allow you to take 2 weeks of paid leave and return to work. Listen, Mums go through a lot during the pregnancy and delivers their baby as well. In emergencies, where your kid is sick, Mums need to attend to them on a regular basis. They need a break from their jobs; and it gives these other women a break from two people in their household.

Paternity Leave Policy

The father or father to be, should be allowed to take at least 5 days of paid leave after the delivery, this gives him time to bond with his kid (My reasoning for this is: The longer the father takes to bond with the child, the more distant he will be from the child, and his relationship with the child will affect how he treats the child as a teenager.)

And also to give both parents time to bond with the child and help in looking after the child.

3 Phases of Maternity That Businesses Need to Know

The time off you get for maternity leave is one of the most important things to take into account when you’re thinking of starting your own business. As an many deal-making, get-things-done business owner, most of you no doubt know that a recent study has shown that a woman working for herself is more likely to make it to the highest levels of her industry.

Sadly, in the U.S., it is still uncommon for women to start their own businesses. Furthermore, the majority of women that have started businesses have not been successful in the long term. This is due in large part to the fact that so much of the business world has stuck to a way of thinking that straight men have. This way of thinking takes each gender as distinctly gendered and male for males. Put simply: just because that guy happens to be a man does not make it wrong for him to operate according to his and his gender’s ideas for him.

Thankfully, there is a growing call for real gender equity in the workplace. Many people are tired of men getting these decisions for women, and much more are realizing it doesn’t make any sense to keep women in the same old roles that were not fitting anymore.

Phase 1: Employee Working While Pregnant

It is common for some companies to have a Phase-1 policy with a maternity leave of 3 months and when the baby is born, the company gives appropriate approval, then they can bring back the employee to continue working.

How does this work?

Pregnant women working for the company work one day on and one day off (not two to three days but one day on and one day off) which one of them is the monthly day off during the first 3 months.

Then Phase-2 starts; and the employee keeps working until she feels maternity leave, and any time she works in between the days off, she has to take the day off as soon as possible.

An employee’s work and duties will be under consideration.

Why would companies give such an allowance for this?

Since she is new employee who is pregnant, they’ll need to be careful with her body which might have health issue, so if they continue working while she takes maternity leave and after delivering the baby, they’re still careful with her body and do take advantage of her labor force, and therefore companies authorize her to work a day on or one day off.

But how long does this contract last?

As long as the employee wants to continue working for the company until she feels she can’t work any longer.

Phase 2: Employee on Maternity Leave

Parental leave continues to be an issue for small business owners. With the phase-in of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) taking place over the next few years, employers of any size will need to be ready to manage situations when employees can’t work due to their own or an employee’s own pregnancy or adoption. What follows is an outline of the process and information on how to handle it.


In 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) set the foundation for maternity leave and adoption leave in the United States. FMLA states that employees working for a small business with 50 or more employees may take 12 weeks of unpaid maternity or 12 weeks of unpaid adoption leave during any 18-month period.

Here’s a quick overview of FMLA:

FMLA Contacts

Before taking leave under the FMLA, employees must contact their employer, then follow up with the company when a potential transfer, leave, disability, or changes to the manner in which work is performed or to benefits require the employee to provide notice or otherwise work with the employer. Generally this is to allow the employer to determine if the FMLA applies to the individual employee, or to see if any modifications are necessary.


State Maternity Leave Laws

Phase 3: Employee Pumping Milk After Return to Work

When a woman gives birth, she leaves her former job, in order to spend time with her newborn infant. When she returns to work, though, her employer is not required to provide any accommodation for pumping breast milk, or for feeding the infant.

Under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), her non-family (co-worker) employer is required to allow her to use a reasonable amount of time to pump and store her milk, so she can hire someone to watch her infant while she is at work. To know more about Breastfeeding, click here

Employers are not responsible for providing childcare for infants and young children; however, employers that have a fully paid and nondiscriminatory family leave policy are not required to provide coverage for leaves under the CFRA. (See Family Rights Act below).

If your employer does not have a fully paid family leave policy, consider asking the company about a family leave policy that provides paid time off for bonding with an infant, or pumping breast milk if needed.

There are unpaid family and medical leave laws for certain circumstances under federal and state laws. These leave laws are for situations such as:

returning from maternity leave

Maternity or paternity leave for a child’s birth, adoption, foster care placement, or for the birth of a child with a disability.

Leave for individual illness, personal injury, or medical diagnosis or treatment.

5 Maternity Leave Policy Options

Provide Unpaid Maternity Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that guarantees newly hired employees one year of unpaid time off for the birth or adoption of a child. If you have been employed with your company or covered under your company’s insurance plan for at least a year, you are eligible for maternity leave.

You may not work through your planned maternity leave and must be off the job for at least 75 percent of the leave. However, you may not be required to use all of your paid leave and may be required to use less than your paid leave.

Once maternity leave is requested, it should be given in writing to your employer. Your employer should also let you know when you need to return to work immediately or when you can return within a specific number of days.

Generally, while in maternity leave, you may work part-time, on a flexible schedule, or even from home. Your employer is required to treat all part-time and temporary employees in the same manner as permanent employees. This means that temporary workers and part-time workers need to be treated the same as full-time workers concerning benefits such as vacation and time off. Permanent employee and temporary employee status do not change during the leave.

Offer Remote / Work from Home Options

An established working mom’s biggest challenge is keeping a balance between her priorities and work. Many remote / work from home secretaries endure a lot of juggling with an extra job on the side. First of all, they have to quit their regular jobs to take on a part-time job of their new business venture. This causes a disruption and changes in family life. Secondly, a lot of moms struggle to figure out suitable replacements to handle their employees’ work while they are away. Even if they are able to find a solution, the time and cost of finding replacements is considerable. It’s all too common for these moms to need to give up the venture.

Ex: Small Business Maternity Leave Policy For Online Shoppers

As a first time-working mom, I wanted to create a website that focused on women and all things related to womanhood. However, where there are women, there are usually babies.

After I gave birth, I wasn’t going to completely turn my back on my goal with one pull of the plug. Neither would I be able to completely invest myself 100% in my work with my first child in the home and the other at daycare.

Allow Flexible Scheduling

In the United States, businesses are not required to provide their employees with FMLA, (or FMLA-compatible) leave. However, many businesses choose to implement their own policies to offer employees benefits from their workplace.

A policy that extends access to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, can be considered FMLA-compatible. And, if your business offers a flexible work schedule, FMLA-compatible leave can count towards that option.

And lastly, there are not federal, state, or local laws restricting how or when employees can take the FMLA. The main exceptions are with respect to an employee who shows a pattern of taking FMLA leave for reasons other than the birth or adoption of a child. An employer cannot use that as a reason to terminate an employee.

Offer Short Term Disability Insurance

Not all businesses are able to offer short term disability insurance to their employees. If you own a small business than you may be wondering why you should offer short term disability insurance if it costs a lot for your business.

There are a few benefits to having short term disability insurance for your employees. One of the main reasons for offering short term disability insurance to your employees is to reduce the overall cost of unemployment. The average cost of unemployment is about 24% of the average employee’s monthly salary in the United States.

Not only does short term disability insurance help to reduce the cost of unemployment, but it also helps attract and retain good employees. A study of 500 randomly selected organizations found that the quality of a company’s cash flow related financial ratios are higher in organizations that offer short term disability insurance.

Scientific research supports the positive impact that employee insurance policies have on the quality of a company’s financial ratios.

Short term disability insurance offers support when a company’s business is in turmoil. If a business is for sale and in need of a monetary injection, short term disability insurance can help to ensure that a business is not damaged by a potential buyer. If the business has a current product recall, a short term disability policy can help to cover the loss of income from the recall.

Offer Paid Maternity Leave

Eight states…California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island…plus Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands…offer paid family leave. The following examples describe what employers generally must do to comply with that law, unless otherwise stated. Examples of employers generally covered are:

Employers covered by federal law. Federal law requires employers of at least 50 employees to allow mothers to recover for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 26-month period (up to all 2 years’ maternity leave). Certain employers are also required to comply with additional requirements.The law applies to employers that do not qualify as small-business employers.

Federal law requires employers of at least 50 employees to allow mothers to recover for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 26-month period (up to all 2 years’ maternity leave). Certain employers are also required to comply with additional requirements.The law applies to employers that do not qualify as small-business employers. Employers who offer 20 hours of sick leave or 7 days of paid leave. Some employers offer paid leave other than FMLA leave. Employers of 50 or more must allow up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave for family and medical leave, with certain contributions by the employee.

Administering Your Maternity Policy

If you are going to provide a policy for your employees to give them an idea of the type of maternity leave you’re going to provide, you’ll need to create a standard policy that you will be enforcing once you have hired your employees.

But before you draft out the exact details of your policy, you might want to make sure that your other employees are aware of the policy and have enough time to familiarize themselves with it. You can also make mention of the policy and its procedure in your handbook where your employees will be bound to read it.

You should also make sure that everyone on your staff will have access to the information regarding the policy that will help them perform their tasks with maximum efficiency.

And you’ll have to make sure that all of your employees know how easily they can avail medical benefits for the care of their newborn. Most employers want to provide support to their employees, but because providing support to their new babies can be quite a hefty financial obligation, your assistance is needed more than ever. So if you have put in a large amount of effort to build up your company, it’s likely that you’ll want to make sure that you provide the best support possible to your new employees.

Maternity Policy FAQs for Small Business Owners

These are the most common questions related to maternity rights in the workplace for business owners.

With a small business, the owner is the face of the small business. So when the owner becomes pregnant, it is important that she be able to have some time off.

Although state, federal, and local laws can vary significantly, it's important that small business owners fully understand how long they are allowed to take off. In many cases, the policies that apply to larger companies could apply to small business as well, so careful reading of employee handbooks and other documents, if available, is highly recommended.

If you're new to small business, or you're just getting ready for it, a maternity policy is one of the first considerations you need to take into account.

My employee just told me she is pregnant (or adopting a child) and I don’t have a policy yet.

What do I do?

There are plenty of reasons why a business owner might have no maternity-leave policy in place. Maybe no one in your company has ever had a child before. Maybe you were too busy to realize there was a need for a policy until the very last moment.

Whatever the reason, it may be too late by the time you realize that your company needs one. In this case, you can’t blame yourself.

However, you still need to take action. The law requires you to have a maternity-leave policy in place and to give your employees the option of taking paid maternity leave when they become parents.

Here is a list of questions that companies are often asked by the government during inspections of a company’s maternity-leave policy and how to answer them:

  • How many employees do you have?
  • How many of these employees have a child plan?
  • What is the policy for you to have a child?

I heard through the grapevine that my employee is pregnant.

What's the maternity policy here?

Many small businesses are now being recognized as “employers of choice” for women and men. For this reason, more and more employers are providing more generous and inclusive maternity policies in addition to more traditional family leave policies.

It is becoming widely accepted by all types of businesses that “family friendly” values, policies, and practices are good for company goals such as retention and growth. Additionally, many American small businesses not only strive to provide the “family friendly” policies and practices, but they are "commissioned" to do so by the government.

Here are a few small business maternity leave and family policies and laws that may help your small business be “family friendly”:

State and federal law — The FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) protects all employees in the workplace and allows eligible employees to take job protected Pregnancy Leave following the birth or adoption of a child.

My new hire started a month ago and just told me she is pregnant.

Can I let her go part time until the baby is born?

Yes. Many new moms do part-time work, so you might want to consider letting her go part time early in her maternity leave rather than waiting until after the baby is born.

Some states exempt employees from paying employment taxes while they are on maternity leave. This could be an incentive to find a new employee who is currently available to start immediately.

If you do decide to keep her on part time, your part-time or temporary new employee may be eligible for additional state-provided benefits that a full-time employee may not be eligible for.

An employee I was just about to fire informed me she is pregnant.

I was shocked because until that moment, I didn’t even know she had been hired. Given the current economic climate, I was working with a limited number of employees and I needed to ensure that I used my resources wisely. What should I do?

An employee in this situation can be terminated unless your company has a uniform pregnancy policy and/or maternity leave policy. (See more below.)

It’s important to note that in some States, – the law prevents you from firing an employee based on gender, family status, race, or disability. In these circumstances, you may only make an individualized determination related to the employee, based on a consideration of the individual’s seniority, length of service, and performance. Given that your company doesn’t have a uniform policy, this may differ from state to state.

My second in command, crucial to the business, wants maternity leave.

She is so afraid she’s being viewed as a liability, she insists on maternity leave and refuses to tell me why.

She feels she’s not qualified to look after her baby. She’s been with me for less than a year. She won’t come to me and explain or ask for help. She should talk to me first.

I’ve asked for concrete reasons why she wants to take maternity leave. She keeps asking for a paid sick day.

So how do I set up a maternity policy while with a pregnant employee?

Consider asking the local benefits office for help. For example, my area has an online benefits program that will give you simple information about how to handle maternity leave for employees in your small business.

Although it’s best to try to talk things out with your employee, don’t be afraid to step up and give direction. After all, this is your business, and your employee is your employee.

If you’re unable to resolve this issue with her, you might want to consider assigning that employee to a new department. This could be a temporary condition (for a limited time), and if it becomes permanent, you may have to let her go anyway.

My pregnant employee is currently on maternity leave. I need to hire a replacement for her and terminate her while she’s on leave. Is this okay?

Nope! This sounds like a really good idea—until you really think about it.

Although it’s easy enough to hire someone to temporarily replace your pregnant employee while she’s on leave, terminating them is more complicated.

First of all, as a small business owner, you’re still responsible for the wages of your pregnant employee. When her leave ends, you’ll be legally responsible for paying her full wages for the remaining length of her leave plus all vacation, sick, and other wages she’s earned but not yet paid. You can use this as a bargaining chip to negotiate a severance package for your pregnant employee, potentially saving you a lot of money.

Second, consider the point of view of the new family member who comes on board right after your pregnant employee – would you really want to join a company whose boss cares more about saving money than having a happy and healthy workforce?

My best advice is to find a replacement immediately. Even if you have to pay a premium for a replacement – the money you’re saving could be a significant amount of money. How much is up to you!

Bottom Line on Maternity Leave Policy

Maternity leave is one of the most important aspects of a woman’s career. While the United States does not give women extensive maternity leave, they do provide some protection for women during this time, including the following:

  • Employers are not allowed to discriminate against pregnant women
  • Employees are allowed to take an unpaid leave and, during the leave, can continue to collect the same pay
  • Once she gives birth, a woman can take up to 6 weeks leave, if she plans to return to work full time
  • During this time, the woman can return to work, but she has the option to hold the baby longer
  • When she returns to work, she is not required to have documentation to prove the child is hers
  • The length of the mother’s leave can be extended if she needs the time to care for a sick relative

While the United States does not provide women with much time to focus on her own health during the first few days of the journey, maternity leave provides some protection and reduces the stress of the workplace.

Policies differ among employers; some require a father to be the main caregiver for the newborn, while other companies allow the pregnant women time to be with her child.