Giving birth might be an incredibly difficult and draining process, but it doesn’t get easier once you’ve got a baby in your arms. Taking care of a newborn child is a full-time job in and of itself. Considering just how hard it is to get a full night’s sleep when you’ve just had a baby, you’re probably preparing yourself for taking some time off from the office.

But just how much time can you take off after giving birth? That’s a question that takes into account many different factors. One major factor is the policies your workplace has on the topic, but local and federal laws can also come into play when determining how much time you’ll be able to take off. We’ll look at how maternity leave works in Florida and take a good look at why the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is so important to answer this question.

Does Florida have Paid Maternity Leave?

The United States does not mandate paid maternity leave on a national level. This means that it is up to each individual state to determine whether or not they should have paid maternity leave. Unfortunately, Florida has chosen not to make paid maternity leave a requirement.

What this means for you is that if you want to take time off work after giving birth, you’re going to need to be crafty about how to maximize your potential time off. The most readily available options that people have are:

  • Your Company Offers Time Off: This is only applicable if your company actually does offer maternity leave. If they do, keep in mind that employer offered maternity leave runs simultaneously as FMLA leave. If your employer offers leave for medical conditions, then they must offer leave for pregnancy-related issues but how much time they offer once the child has been born will be something you have to check with management or HR about.
  • Sick Leave, Vacation, and Personal Days: For many people, the only option they have to take time off work after giving birth is to use a combination of their sick, personal, and vacation days. Depending on the company you work for and how long you’ve been working for them, this could be a sizable number of days. But for many people, they haven’t thought ahead to save their days off for a future event such as giving birth and so they aren’t able to take that many off following giving birth.
  • Short-Term Disability: Giving birth takes a lot out of a person and as such, it can leave you unable to work for some time. It’s possible to take time off claiming a temporary or short-term disability.
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act: Those who meet the criteria set out by the Family and Medical Leave Act could be eligible to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for their newborn child. This is a federal program and so it is applicable regardless of where you live. While this option is one of the best available options for getting time off, it does have a number of requirements that have to be met. We’ll discuss those now.

Who is Eligible for FMLA Leave and What Does it Cover?

FMLA provides the chance of taking up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after giving birth, but that’s not the only benefit it offers. It also allows you to:

  • Take time off for prenatal care
  • Take time off for issues related to pregnancy, such as extreme morning sickness
  • Time off for placement and care of a foster care child
  • Time off for placement and care of an adopted child
  • Parental leave for both parents

FMLA can be particularly nice for couples, as many places that offer leave for mothers following birth don’t offer the same for fathers, despite the fact that fathers have just as much to learn and handle following a birth.

Unfortunately, the requirements necessary to qualify for FMLA can be quite difficult for some people to work. Those who work part-time or for small companies may find themselves excluded from FMLA benefits. You should be able to see why when looking at the following list of requirements for FMLA leave:

  • The company you work for must have 50 or more employees
  • Those 50 or more employees must be within 75 miles of the office
  • You work in the private sector
  • You have worked for the company for at least a year
  • In that year, you’ve worked at least 1,250 hours

These are a lot of hoops to be jumped through, unfortunately, and so it can often be that you find yourself unable to benefit from FMLA. Another potential downside is that if both parents work for the same company, they may be eligible for less time overall than if they worked for different companies.

Can I Be Punished by My Boss for Taking FMLA Leave?

If you are eligible for FMLA leave then it is illegal for your employer to deny your rights under FMLA, including the right to time off to look after your child. Time off through FMLA cannot be used as a factor in any employment action taken against you.

But just because it is illegal, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Some employers will make up excuses as a way to let go of staff that are taking too much time off. If you ever suspect you are being punished for taking FMLA to leave, then you should speak to an attorney about what steps to take against your employer to ensure that your rights are protected and they are punished for their crime.

What Should I Do if I Have More Questions?

If you still have questions about how much time you can take off after giving birth or other topics pertaining to your pregnancy and the law, then reach out to Lankford Law Firm. We’d love to hear your questions and provide you with answers, legal advice, and representation for the issues you face on your new journey as a parent in the workforce.