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Typical US Maternity Leave

January 29, 2016

If I were to become pregnant, I can use short term disability (SDI) with a 7 day waiting period.  Before being eligible for my claim, I have to exhaust my entire sick leave bank OR 20 days of it, whichever is comes first.  The disability period is generally 8 weeks.

The most likely situation is that I will have (approximately) 20 days of sick leave banked, which is 4 weeks.   After 4 weeks of waiting, I’ll get 70% of my pay for the next 4 weeks.  Then, all benefits stop and I’m on my own.  I’ll return to work with no sick leave in the bank.

That is less than $10k in benefits.  I’m currently paying $1,500/year for the supplemental disability (70% of my salary instead of 55%).  Now that I’m approaching a 20-day sick bank, that is probably not worth doing anymore.  Although it would apply to other short term disabilities, pregnancy is the most likely reason I’d be using this program.

Despite living in California, I’m not eligible for California’s Paid Family Leave.  If I was, I think this would allow me to use both SDI and have an additional 6 weeks at 55% pay.  I’m not sure of that though, and it doesn’t matter.

Some employers/states don’t even offer short term disability, so I guess this is a small benefit.  My job is protected for 12 weeks per federal law.

That’s it.  I can use vacation/sick leave for 4 weeks, get 4 weeks at 55%-70% pay, then have 4 weeks unpaid.  It is likely I can negotiate more unpaid leave as needed, and possibly a reduced schedule (and pay) after that if I want.  But legally and by company policy, those things are up to me to negotiate with my bosses.

Many people already are aware of how nonexistent parental leave is in the US, but many aren’t.  I do think this will change some day, but no time soon.

(No, I’m not pregnant or trying, but I am researching.)

12 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2016 11:36 am

    If I were you, I would probably plan on having an extra large cash buffer and then try negotiating for extra unpaid leave as you desire. How much time would your husband get?

    • January 29, 2016 10:56 pm

      He’s a professor and officially i think he gets limited time (I have no idea what it is). He gets teaching duty relief, which frees up some of his time, but I think he is still expected to keep his research group going and such. In practice most male faculty take some time (on the order of 2 weeks) but still respond to e-mails, then do quasi-part time for a semester. That’s just my guess. We haven’t gotten to that level of detail. You can stop the tenure clock, but he’s received advice that you might not actually want to. It’s a good question though.

      • January 29, 2016 11:15 pm

        True. If you’re doing research, I would double check on this. For example, are there better times of the year for him to take time off to be with a baby than others? You could start TTC somewhere around the time that would lead to that and if it works out, great, otherwise, ah well. Not everyone can time their kids, but I know my parents did and it worked well for them.

        • January 31, 2016 7:31 pm

          Yeah, probably slightly better times (i.e. not mid-semester, summer would be easiest, etc.)

  2. Meg permalink
    January 29, 2016 12:46 pm

    Is your supplemental disability insurance for short- or long-term disability? I’ve never had it offered for shortly term by an employer. Employers also have to pay your healthcare premiums while you are on leave, through during unpaid leave, you have to pay your portion. My company doesn’t allow us to bank vacation or sick time (we actually don’t have a sick time allotment), but does pay for 12 weeks maternity leave and 6 weeks paternity plus an option to extend to 6 months without pay. It was pretty nice, I took extended leaves with both children.

    • January 29, 2016 1:20 pm

      Short term. (They are required to offer it since I’m not eligible for California SDI/PFL.)

      I’d rather have 12 weeks paid leave! That’s pretty generous for US standards. I was actually shocked at how crappy my own benefits are.

  3. middle_class permalink
    January 29, 2016 1:01 pm

    How come you’re not eligible for the CA Paid family leave? It’s not perfect but it definitely makes a difference.

  4. February 2, 2016 9:54 am

    Overtime I hear about Maternity Leave in the United States I just shake my head….It’s amazing that the population still increases at all.

  5. February 4, 2016 3:42 pm

    Aw man, that sucks that you’re not eligible for CA SDI & PFL. That covers 12 weeks (if you deliver naturally, 14 weeks if you have a c-section) of 55% salary which isn’t awesome but it’s better than nothing. But then again I don’t get sick leave so our sucky coverages are probably evened out.

    Sherry (of SaveSpendSplurge) recommended that I take 6 months if I could afford it. At the time I thought that was way too long and besides, I couldn’t quite make that happen but now that I’m on the other side, I absolutely wish that I’d been able to budget / plan for closer to 6 months than I did.

    • February 5, 2016 12:41 pm

      Yup. My SDI is ok, but I don’t like the “must drain sick days” clause, and there is no PFL component. Good to note on the 6 months. How long did you budget/plan for? 3?

      • February 13, 2016 9:14 pm

        Yeah, having to use a week of it would be reasonable but forcing you to drain it is unreasonable and smacks of making sure you don’t take ANY other paid time off for the year or nearly so after the baby arrives which is terrible.

        I planned for 10-12 weeks because I wasn’t sure if I would have to go out before due date or not, used the whole thing.

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