Baby steps toward greater certainty around parental leave

April 12, 2023

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Preparing for parenthood is no easy feat — and pregnancy is a significant undertaking. Expectant parents know the importance of researching family history and prenatal vitamins, but there are many aspects of the journey that are not as clear. Everyone’s experience is unique, and, for most people, navigating what comes next – not only the changes a baby brings, but also immediate questions about leave and health benefits – can be an unfamiliar and complicated process.

Short-term and long-term disability 

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), pregnancy is covered as a serious health condition. Mothers are entitled to up to 12 weeks of time away from work to prepare for and recover from delivery, which includes time away from work for prenatal visits. But the FMLA only provides job and benefits protection. What about income replacement? 

Some U.S. employers offer short-term disability (STD) benefits, and a handful of states provide state disability insurance (SDI) benefits for pregnancy. Typically, maternity leave eligibility will begin either when a healthcare provider states the mother can no longer work or approximately two weeks prior to the estimated delivery date. Coverage continues for six weeks following a normal delivery and 8 weeks following a C-section. 

Of course, complications can arise and derail plans — creating an added stressor for expectant parents. For instance, if a pregnant person’s due date is mid-March and she goes into labor early, she may need to transition to long-term disability (LTD) if the allotted time isn’t enough to recover fully. 

Job protection 

Typically, a “normal” pregnancy is not considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, if a complication should occur, the condition would likely rise to the level of a covered disability. Not to mention, in many states, reasonable accommodation of pregnancy-related conditions is required by law. So technically, leave could be provided as an accommodation if there is evidence you are able to return to work in the near future. 

Increasingly, employers are offering paid parental leave so that new mothers can bond with their child after they are born. Fathers are entitled to a similar benefit, but it varies by company whether this time is paid or unpaid. Some states offer job-protected leave beyond the 12 weeks FMLA guarantees. States across the U.S. continue to introduce and reevaluate laws for families. In June 2023, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act becomes effective. This act was designed to protect pregnant job applicants and employees. 

Healthcare coverage 

Healthcare coverage is important for a growing family. Babies need nine well-baby visits and 16 immunizations during the first year. These preventive services are generally included at no additional cost under most insurance plans. Having a baby is a qualifying event which allows the ability to change benefits outside of the open enrollment period. Most plans typically require changes to occur within 30-60 days of the event; coverage is retroactive to the child’s date of birth. After that, waiting until open enrollment is the only option.

At Sedgwick, taking care of people is at the heart of everything we do. Navigating the nuances of pregnancy and parental leave can be stressful. Whether an employee wants to understand their benefits or needs to take time off work, our disability and absence management teams work together to get them the care and resolution they deserve – listening to their concerns, acting with empathy, setting expectations and assisting at every turn. Because caring counts. 

> Learn more — read the flyer to learn more about our disability and absence management services.