Taking Leave After a Miscarriage
Suffering a miscarriage is a devastating loss for any woman. If you have suffered from a miscarriage or recurrent miscarriages, you know how difficult and painful a pregnancy loss can be. Because of the significant grief and sorrow that is common to feel after a pregnancy loss, you may want to take some time off of work. But what type of leave would this be? Are you entitled to maternity leave after a miscarriage or would you be required to use some of your vacation days?
According to the Department of Labour, currently more than 69 million women are working in the United States. With so many women making up the workforce, it is important for working women to have some sort of guarantee that they will not lose their jobs should they be faced with a pregnancy complication or suffer from a pregnancy-related condition. Unfortunately, the United States, along with Australia and New Zealand, are among the few countries in the industrialized world that do not have legislation in place to provide women with guaranteed paid maternity leave. Instead, rights regarding an extended leave due to pregnancy are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act
In 1993, the U.S. Congress signed into law the FMLA. This act guarantees both men and women unpaid, job-protected leave for up to 12 weeks after the birth of a child; adoption of a child; taking care of an ill relative or tending to one’s own medical condition. It also considers a miscarriage to be a serious health condition, and therefore allowing for a recovery period. However, there are several stipulations to this law.
The only employees covered by this law are those that work for a company that employs 50 people or more in a commerce-related activity. Secondly, in order to qualify under the FMLA, an employee must have worked for at least 1,250 hours in the past year for that company. This has left the majority of people that are not employed by corporations, work part-time, work for small businesses or who have only been employed a short time without access to job-protected leave.
According to the Survey of Employees on the Impact of the Family and Medical Leave Act, published in 1996, 64 per cent of the respondents who needed the leave could not take it because they could not afford it. Fortunately, there are other options for women seeking leave under U.S. employment law.
Women in the United States can use a combination of sick leave, short-term disability and vacation days if they require time off after suffering from a miscarriage. Additionally, many large employers, unions and states offer short-term disability for illness or injury, which could include miscarriage. However, if the state is providing short-term disability, you may be required to pay out a small portion of your paycheck for your coverage. If your employer or union provides disability, then the cost may already be covered. If short-term disability is unavailable from any of these sources, you can purchase your own private policy for six weeks or more for pregnancy-related conditions.
State disability benefits can cover half to two-thirds of your salary and may last anywhere from four to 12 weeks. When state short-term disability runs out, some states may offer unpaid disability leave or unpaid pregnancy disability leave. California offers this option and in 2004 became the first state to offer paid leave to families. If you have suffered a miscarriage and would like to take some time off to recuperate physically and mentally, then check with your company human resources department to see what options are available to you.
What Canada Offers
In Canada, the possibility of a miscarriage is taken into consideration to determine the length of maternity leave. Under the Employment Standards Act, pregnancy leave is defined as a leave of absence from work for up to 17 weeks. An employee has the option of deciding between "pregnancy leave" and "parental leave," which is another leave of absence for 18 weeks. If not using the pregnancy or parental leave, a person may be entitled to disability benefits when unable to work. If you suffer a miscarriage, you may take pregnancy or parental leave in order to deal with your loss.
A person may also apply for employment insurance benefits from the federal Employment Insurance Program during pregnancy or parental leave. According to labor standards legislation, in most Canadian provinces, an employee is entitled to an extension of maternity leave for an additional six weeks unpaid leave when a physician ascertains she cannot return due to birth-related medical reasons.
Know Your Rights
If you are a working woman and have suffered from a miscarriage, you know how confusing it can be to negotiate state and federal maternity leave law. Become informed of your rights in employment laws regarding pregnancy, pregnancy complications and miscarriage in your state. If you are unsure about your rights, you should contact your company union or human resources department to find out about your company’s maternity leave policy.
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