HAVING A BABY? ADOPTING A CHILD?
Congratulations! If you are going to have a baby, you may have questions about your benefits and time off options. The following information provided will give you an adequate explanation of your benefits, as well as how to take time off in order to help you make the best decisions for your family.
Massachusetts workers have three different laws that give them the right to take time off from work for the birth or adoption of a child, to take care of seriously ill family members, to recover from their own serious illnesses, or to take care of routine family responsibilities.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law guaranteeing covered workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for newborns, newly adopted children and seriously ill family members, or to recover from their own serious illnesses.
The Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA) allows covered female workers to take up to eight weeks following the birth or adoption of a child.
The Small Necessities Leave Act (SNLA) allows workers to take up to 24 hours per year off from work to go to their child’s education-related school activities, or to accompany a child or elderly relative to medical or dental appointments.
- The MMLA/FMLA only guarantees unpaid leave. However, the law permits an employee to elect to use accrued paid vacation leave, paid sick/family leave for some or all of the FMLA leave period.
- The FMLA/MMLA does not require that leave be paid or that maternity leave be included in the computation of benefits, rights and advantages incident to employment, or that an employer pay for the costs of any benefits, plans or programs during the maternity leave.
- Upon written application to the School Committee an employee may request and will receive an additional leave of absence which shall not exceed one (1) year after the birth or the termination of the pregnancy. Any employee taking leave for a pregnancy-related disability will be eligible to use accumulated sick leave in accordance with the terms of the Sick Leave Article XVII.
- No maternity leave shall commence except upon at least twenty (20) days notice from the teacher to the Superintendent (or designee) unless waived by the Superintendent in any appropriate circumstances.
6 Steps to Prepare for Maternity/Paternity Leave
- Consider how you want to take your leave. Typically, doctors write notes ranging from 6 -12 weeks for post-delivery recovery time. It is important to have appropriate documentation included in your request because you will only be able to use your sick/personal as payment based on the time your doctor prescribes.
- For example, if your doctor writes a note for you to be out for 6 weeks, and you wish to take 12 weeks to recover, you will only be allowed to use your paid sick time for the prescribed 6 weeks. It is imperative that you speak with your doctor regarding what time off s/he will grant you after you give birth.
- Legally, we are allowed to take 8-12 weeks of unpaid leave immediately following the birth of the child according to Massachusetts Maternity Leave Law (FMLA/MMLA).
- Verify how much sick time and the number of personal days you have accrued. Sick time is easily found on the stub of your paycheck in the bottom of the right-hand corner, under “remaining balance.” Divide that number by six and it will give you the number of remaining sick days you are entitled to. Call Payroll for Chicopee Public Schools (CPS) and confirm your amount of sick/personal time. The phone number is 413-594-1537.
- In order to be paid during your maternity leave you must have accrued enough of these days to last the length of time your doctor prescribed post-delivery recovery time.
- You can always opt to take an unpaid leave or a combination of paid and unpaid leave.
- Contact your insurance provider because policies can vary. It is a good rule of thumb to call and check with your chosen insurance company and familiarize yourself with their policies on child birth and coverage.
- You must meet with your department supervisor/principal to discuss your maternity leave request. Most commonly women request eight weeks (8) for post-delivery recovery time and adjust that request after giving birth. This must take place no later than twenty (20) days prior to your requested leave date. Please note that each department supervisor/principal may have her/his own method of acquiring appropriate coverage for your leave. Be sure to discuss your individual plan with her/him.
- Discuss your breastfeeding plan related to lactation release during the work day with your principal/supervisor BEFORE you give birth. This allows the principal/supervisor adequate time to accommodate your needs for when you return to work. If you’re not comfortable, seek out the school nurse or a CEA Building Representative. We recognize how important timing, cleanliness and a sense of security is to the lactation process. If the options presented are not suitable to your specific needs, have your building representative contact CEA Co-Vice President, Christine Theroux.
- Submit your letter requesting maternity/paternity leave.
- We recommend you request 8 weeks based on your due date.
- You are not required to provide an explanation of the type of delivery (i.e. vaginal vs. C-section) when requesting paid leave if you have an adequate number of sick days and a note from the doctor requesting a post-delivery recovery time of 8 weeks.
- Original requested dates may be changed if a mother goes into labor before or after her due date.
- SAMPLE LETTER
- This must take place no later than twenty (20) days prior to your requested leave date. Letters of application should be sent to:
- Director of Human Resources
- CEA President
- CEA Treasurer
- Department Supervisor/Principal
- If you decide to work beyond your due date, you will need to resubmit a letter requesting paternity/maternity leave with a date adjustment.
- After the birth of the child, request that your doctor write a note requesting additional leave beyond the originally prescribed recovery time, if needed. If additional time is needed, be sure to request a note from your doctor specifically using the phrase “medically incapacitated.” This will ensure you are able to use your sick days while you are out of work. This note should be submitted to HR as soon as possible.
Recommendations Once Your Baby is Born/Adopted
- Add Your Baby to Your Health Benefits Plan
- The City of Chicopee requires you to add a child within 30 days of her/his birth. Again, because insurance policies can be very different, it is a good rule of thumb to call and check with your chosen insurance company and familiarize yourself with their policies on childbirth and coverage that will meet the specific needs of you and your growing family. Policies can range in price. Luckily, Chicopee offers a few options, but if you wish to change your current provider, you are only able to do so during the open enrollment period, which is currently March 31st – April 11. You can visit www.chicopeema.gov and click on the “City Departments” tab and go to “Human Resources” and then click on “Health Benefits” for more information.
- Your Doctor Releases You to Return to Work
- Doctors typically release women back to work anywhere from 6-12 weeks after a birth. However, this may vary due to medical circumstances and can be extended with a note from your doctor. The six, eight, or twelve weeks begin the day you have your baby. If your doctor advises you to stop working prior to your baby’s birth, you would need to use your sick time.
- When your Doctor releases you, here are your options:
- Return to Work
- Notify your supervisor/school principal, the director of human resources, and the CEA president and treasurer as soon as possible with your return to work date. A good rule of thumb is to have something in writing. Send an email and/or letter stating your intended date of return.
- Extend your Leave
- Your doctor may extend your time by giving you a note stating you are “medically incapacitated and unable to work.” Circumstances vary among patients and only a doctor’s note will ensure your compensation if you have the sick time to use.
- Under FMLA/MMLA, time may be taken without pay for up to twelve weeks starting after the baby is born. (Note: FMLA and MMLA time off run concurrently, i.e. are taken at the same time)
- FMLA must be used within one year of the baby’s birth, but it need not be used all at once.
- For example if you choose to use six weeks of your time under FMLA immediately following the birth of your child, you may request leave at any point within one (1) year of the birth of your child for the remaining six weeks. This time may also be used daily, or piecemeal.
- Return to Work Part-Time
- Before deciding to go part-time, please remember that you may use intermittent FMLA. For example, if you have someone that can watch your baby three days a week, you could take two days a week of intermittent FMLA. You must use FMLA time off within one year of the baby’s birth.
- Keep in mind that when you go to part-time status, your benefit costs may increase.
- Return to Work
IMPORTANT ITEMS TO REVIEW
- These documents may contain a more detailed explanation for your particular situation:
- Latest Contract Unit A Contract
- “Pregnancy and Parental Leave for School Employees” by the MTA http://www.massteacher.org/search.aspx?q=maternity%20leave
- Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act, also known as Massachusetts Maternity Leave Law (MMLL/MMLA) http://www.mass.gov/mcad/maternity1.html
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. If vacation weeks (such as the summer) occur during my leave, do those weeks count against my FMLA/MMLA leave request, or contractual entitlements? What about paid sick leave?
A. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, vacation weeks do not count against your 12-week entitlement. If you use three weeks of FMLA leave at the end of one school year, you will have nine weeks left at the beginning of the next school year. In fact, if your employer uses the academic year rather than the calendar year as the 12-month period, you may be entitled to an additional 12 weeks at the beginning of the following school year. Under the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Law, the issue is not settled. An argument also can be made that vacation weeks should not count against the eight weeks of MMLL maternity leave.
Regarding sick leave, however, the answer is generally different. You cannot claim FMLA leave for your own illness (such as complications of pregnancy or recovery from childbirth) for a period of time in which you are not actually sick or disabled. Therefore, any FMLA/MMLA leave you take after you are no longer disabled from pregnancy or childbirth would be parental leave rather than medical leave.
As noted above, the FMLA generally does not require your employer to provide paid sick leave during parental leave. Example: If you give birth without complications in May, your period of disability would end six to eight weeks later, in mid-summer. The summer weeks would not count against your unpaid FMLA leave entitlement and you would still have some weeks remaining in September. However, since you would no longer be sick or disabled in September, you would not be entitled to use your paid sick leave at that time.
Q. Under what circumstances can my employer require me to supply medical certification in order to get leave?
A. No medical documentation or certification is required in order to obtain parental leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, Massachusetts Maternity Leave Law or Small Necessities Leave Act. Your employer cannot require you to submit any medical documentation in order to qualify for the eight weeks of maternity leave under the MMLA. For other periods of illness or disability relating to your pregnancy (beyond the eight MMLA weeks), your employer may request that you submit medical verification of your need for leave only if the employer normally requires a doctor’s statement for other kinds of medical leave. The U.S. Department of Labor has published a recommended form (Form WH-380-E) for purposes of medical documentation of FMLA leave for an employee’s serious medical condition.
Q. What type of medical documentation can my employer require when I return from leave due to pregnancy?
A. When you return from leave, your employer may require you to submit to a medical verification of “fitness for duty” (i.e., a doctor’s note) only if the following factors are present
- You are returning from a medical leave related to your own personal illness or injury that made you incapable of performing your job;
- The employer has a uniform policy of requiring similarly situated employees to submit fitness-for-duty certifications when returning from medical leave;
- The medical verification is limited to the illness for which you took your leave; or
- The certification relates to an essential function of your job.
The certification itself need be only a simple statement of your ability to return to work. If the employer correctly follows certain procedural requirements, it could require certification with respect to your ability to perform essential job functions and could contact your doctor to get clarification of the certification.
If your contract does not allow fitness-for-duty certifications or otherwise gives you more rights than the Family and Medical Leave Act does, then your employer must follow the contract.