Typically, states are required to establish their own laws on managing employees. This allows state lawmakers to craft rules and guidelines that adhere to conditions in specific areas. Uniquely, employees of the federal government are not required to adhere to state-established laws. Instead, federal employees are guided by laws established by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). When it comes to maternity leave for federal employees, there are certain things Human Resource professionals should consider.
Federal Workers Can Use Sick Leave to Cover Pregnancy Care
Sick leave is available to cover expenses related to maternity leave for federal employees. Both men and women are entitled to pregnancy care coverage. But it is applicable to different things depending on who is using it.
An expecting mother can utilize up to 12-weeks of sick leave for hospital appointments and prenatal care. The sick leave does not have to be taken all at once time; instead, women can use the hours to cover days for appointments and medical hospitalizations. Childbirth, child care, and postpartum recovery are all included in this 12-week coverage.
Father to Be
Fathers are able to take up to 12-weeks of sick leave for childbirth as well. This time off can cover prenatal visits and the hospitalization period for the mother during and after the child is born. Additionally, fathers are able to use the remaining time to stay at home with the mother during her recovery.
In either case, a doctor’s excuse may be requested by the employer in order to gain approval for maternity leave for federal employees. Parents are generally not allowed to use their sick pay to stay home and bond with a healthy child. Instead, sick leave is intended for parents to ensure their child is healthy before birth during visits and afterward to recover from birth.
Pregnancy Leave Without Pay
Leave without pay, also referred to as LWOP is available to parents that are no longer eligible for free leave. LWOP is subject to supervisor approval and must follow company policies and agreements.
Using Annual Leave for Pregnancy and Childbirth
In order to use sick leave for pregnancy or childbirth, a mother or father is required to provide a 30-day advanced notice. Annual sick leave can be used for pregnancy and/or childbirth by either parent. With a supervisor’s approval, parents are entitled to leave from work to bond and care with newborn babies. The Office of Personnel Management has an annual leave chart that details specific policies related to childbirth.
Usuing Annual Leave for Adoption
Adoption is another period covered by maternity leave for federal employees. Parents that are planning to adopt are able to use up to 30 days of advanced sick leave to cover days in courts, appointments with government agencies, and periods required by adoption agencies to care for adopted children. Just like with childbirth, both mothers and fathers are entitled to a maximum of 12-weeks of sick leave each year for family care purposes.
Family and Medical Leave Act
Aside from laws applicable specifically to federal workers, employees are eligible for maternity leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under FMLA, new mothers and fathers are able to take up to 12-weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period so long as they meet certain requirements.
Employees with the required number of hours worked are able to take time off for birth and/or care of a newborn child. Under maternity leave for federal employees, this 12-week period is in addition to sick leave provided by their government employee. Therefore, individuals eligible for FMLA are able to take a total of 24-weeks of leave should they utilize their sick leave and FMLA coverage.
It is important to remember that FMLA is not paid; workers will not have any source of income during this period. Recommend to individuals planning to use FMLA benefits that they should exhaust sick pay before doing so or have a savings established to cover their expenses during the leave.
If a worker is considering the use of FMLA during pregnancy, childbirth, or recovery, it is important to provide the employer with an advance notice of their intent to do so. Employees will need to fill out a Family and Medical Leave Act Medical Certification Form and provide it to the Human Resource Specialist prior to your leave period.
Other Work Options
As more government agencies consider the expansion of telework, it is important to consider how this program would benefit employees coming back to work from maternity leave. Although it is not specifically required under laws for maternity leave for federal employees, Human Resource managers should consider allowing employees to transition via telework. Spending extension periods away from the office with a new child can make the process of returning to work rather difficult. By opting for telework, workers are able to reestablish their schedule and requirements in order to transition back to work easier.
In addition to employees’ accrued annual sick leave, the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program exists for federal employees to donate their unused annual leave to others for medical emergencies. This is a beneficial program for workers who need additional time off, but do not have paid options available to them.
Whether an employee is considering sick leave, leave without pay, or family and medical leave act coverage, it is important that they adhere to the laws and requirements for maternity leave for federal employees. An adequate notice and following proper procedures will ensure their job is protected during their time off to care for a new family member.
In either case, Human Resource Managers should consider speaking with the employee regarding specific rules about maternity leave for federal employees so they have a more thorough understanding of what options are available to them. Be available to answer questions to workers in order to make the entire process stress-free for the employee as well as the employer.