Maternity Leave: if I want to get paid I have to use vacation.

Because having a baby is a vacation right?  I’ve never had one before but I’m thinking no.  Which is why the recent house vote that passed a for 4 weeks paid parental leave means more than ever.  If this makes it through the senate and gets signed by Obama, government workers in the US will finally be on par with workers in most industrialized nations by providing paid parental leave in addition to job security.

I’ve actually been a bit shocked by how many people don’t know that US government employees are not granted paid parental leave.  What it comes down to is we all get 12 weeks granted to us by FMLA…actually everyone in the US gets that.  Where it gets hairy is that if we want to get a paycheck during this time we have to use our accumulated leave balances.  Some people are like well that’s fair…federal leave policies are so generous so why not?  This is why not.

Say I only want to take the minimum amount of leave…say 6 weeks…b/c no childcare provider will take a child younger than 6 weeks.  In order to accumulate enough sick leave (cause this ain’t no vacation) to cover this time I would have to save every-single-hour of my sick leave granted to me for 2.3 years.  That means I would never be able to get sick, or take time off for a doctors appt or take care of a sick husband/mom/dad.  The fun part is when I returned from maternity leave I would have no sick leave to my name, cause new babies in day care never get sick right?  If I wanted to take the more standard 12 weeks this would take 4.6 years to accumulate.  We do have these vague voluntary leave transfer programs as well as the ability to have 100 sick leave hours leave gifted to us in advance, but lets face it…the loopholes to qualify for either of these are impossible to figure out…and the gifted hours have to be paid back and we only accumulate 104 hours a year so if you take the gift you can’t get sick for another year.  If you add vacation to this time your speed of accumulation gets better but even for the standard 12 weeks if you saved every hour of sick AND annual you wouldn’t have enough saved until 2.3 years down the road.  How are you supposed to get pregnant if you can’t go on vacation for 2.3 years?

Most of my friends usually end up taking leave without pay sometime during their maternity leave…or if not during their first child…definitely during the second (or 3rd).  Telling a new family to just fore-go a paycheck is a bit harsh if you ask me…financial times are tough enough and its not like federal employees are known to be the top earners in the US.  In addition, if health care is being taken out of that federal paycheck you will owe money when you get back from leave cause they just aren’t going to give those benefits to you for free.  And for those of you who are doing the math this would effect retirement contributions as well.

I plan on taking 12 weeks assuming I don’t got into labor early.  I will use every hour of sick leave and almost all of my vacation leave during this time….and this is with 32 hours of holiday leave I will get for Thanksgiving, Xmas, New Years, and Presidents Day.  When I return I will have nothing but 10 hours of vacation leave to my name…and I’ll have to start saving for baby #2 almost immediately.

That is unless this bill actually has momentum and passes.  And since the benchmarks are typically set by the government, someday I hope that ALL employers are required to provide at a minimum 4 weeks paid leave for all workers.  So go write your senator!


  1. Don’t you think it is embarrassing that the USA is the only one of two countries in the OECD that does not have paid maternity leave legislation for all workers?

    Many countries have 50% – 80% pay for 12 months for maternity leave and paternity leave is also built in.

  2. Even Ethiopia provides 90 days (approx. 12 weeks) at 100% pay.


  3. midwestkids says:

    But you would be amazed at the amount of people who don’t think paid parental leave is a right….just look at some of the comments on news sites where they talk about the house bill.

    I wish there were numbers on abortion rates with regard to women who realize that they can’t afford to take leave w/o pay to have a child (even if they put it up for adoption they aren’t going back to work the next day) so they chose abortion instead. Maybe those statistics would get the grumpy republicans to listen up.

    I have yet to meet a woman that doesn’t support this bill…ironic no? If men had the primary responsibility to birth (and recover) & breast feed infants we all would have a year off at 100% pay…


  1. […] blow was lack of paid maternity leave.  I blogged on this back when I was pregnant.  It sill pains me to tell people when asked that “the federal government does not have […]

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