The Basics of Maternity Leave

There comes a time in everyone’s lives, where they want to start a family. But how do mothers manage childbirth and caring for a newborn, along with their job? Shouldn’t mothers be nervous that they may get terminated from their position because they have to take a couple weeks off to care for their child? Well, JUSTLAW is here to tell you that you do not have to be nervous! That is because of the simple fact that New York law provides all mothers with maternity leave.

What is Maternity Leave?

Maternity leave refers to the period of time in which a mother may take off from work in order to care for their newly born child. In particular, legal protection is afforded to a mother right before they give birth and for a period of time after they give birth.

On another note, it is important to understand that based on federal and state laws, fathers can receive paternity leave for a newly born child as well. In addition, both parents are afforded family leave in the case of an adoption. However, for the purposes of this article, we will solely inform you on maternity leave.

How many weeks of maternity leave are mothers afforded under NY Law?

First and foremost, this article is under the assumption that your employer does not offer any maternity leave. However, if they do, that does not mean you are locked out of the leave provided to you under New York law. You most likely can receive both because your employer cannot interfere with your rights under NY law. Therefore, if you are unsure if your employer offers maternity leave, either check your benefits package or talk to your employer.

pregnancy law

Now time to answer the million dollar question. The answer is 10 weeks in 2020 and 12 weeks in 2021. Under a recently created program called New York Paid Family Leave (“NYPFL”), you are entitled to legal protections for the designated amount of time above.

The NYPFL works as an insurance benefit. By triggering a qualifying event, the birth of your child, you can apply for leave through your employer’s NYPFL insurance carrier. Once you are approved, you will receive your benefits through the insurance carrier.

Can you still get paid? And if so, how much?

If the amount of time you may go on leave is the million dollar question, this is the billion dollar question. In 2020, you are entitled to 60 percent of a worker’s average weekly wage. In 2021, this will increase to 67 percent as the NYPFL phases in.

The average weekly wage is annually determined. It is based on the average wage a worker receives in New York. It is currently set at $1,401.17, therefore it is capped at $840.70 (60%). Unfortunately, if you are receiving a high salary where you may make more than $1,401.17 a week, it will have no effect on your weekly benefits under the program. Your weekly benefit will be capped at 60%. However, if you make less than the average weekly wage of all New Yorkers, your weekly benefits will be calculated based on your salary.

When can you begin maternity leave?

The unfortunate answer to this question is that you cannot take maternity leave when you are pregnant. The benefits only start to flow once your child is born.  Despite that, that does not mean that you have to take your 10-12 weeks of maternity leave right after your baby is born. You can receive those benefits and simultaneously take off from work for any 10-12 week period in the first 12 months of your child’s birth.

Can your spouse or partner receive leave as well?

Yes, most certainly! Both parents are entitled to parental leave. In fact, many parents strategically take their leave so that once the first parent’s leave is up, the other parent can use their leave to take care of the newborn.

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Maternity leave, and even paternity leave, are some of the most important laws that New York offers its citizens. Caring for a newborn should be encouraged as families raise their children and build bonds forever. We hope that if you run into any issues in securing maternity leave or just want any legal advice for it, that you come to JUSTLAW for it.