Maternity Leave: Duration, Pay, and Essential Considerations

Written by Daisy
Last updated:
Reviewed by Margaret

Do you know what maternity leave is? Maternity leave is one of the many benefits women can get when they become pregnant. Now, the benefit varies from one state to another from different durations to different pays

In this article, we will dive and go deep in understanding maternity leave more!

What is the Maternity Leave?

The term “maternity” should already be given out. But, for the benefit of everyone, maternity leave is a legal leave of absence from work that is given to new moms, for them to have time off to care for their babies and recover after giving birth.

In simpler terms, it is when an expectant mother will take time off from her usual day job to rest for a few weeks to a few months to nurture and take care of her baby.

Overall, the goal is to promote and keep both babies’ and mother’s health and condition throughout these critical phases normal and secure.

Don’t confuse yourself on what it is!

What is the FMLA?

The FMLA, short for the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, is one of the few laws that benefit employees largely. As per the law, FMLA-eligible covered employers must allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave – all the while ensuring that their job stays.

Requirements for the said law are:

  1. Employee must work for an employer that’s covered
  2. Should have been working for the employer for at least one year (12 months)
  3. Must have worked 1250 hours during the one year before the leave starts
  4. Must work at a location where 50 or more employees work or within 75 miles of it

Read and check out further conditions of the FMLA from the United States Department of Labor here!

How Long is Maternity Leave in the US?

Although the same country, the maternity leave law in the United States varies by the employer, industry and the state. That being said, everything from benefits, duration, pay, and other essentials are different, too.

However, the most common notion or timeframe for maternity leave is 12 weeks. This will depend on a few factors, such as your employer, your state, and the business industry you’re working in.

The National Partnership Organization (NPO) said that 44 percent of workers in the country aren’t eligible for the FMLA. This is because they’re working for a small employer. The reasons vary, but the reasons are:  

  • Have not worked for their employer long enough (21 hours)
  • Work for a small employer (15 percent)
  • Both situations (7 percent)  

How Does Maternity Leave Work in the US? 

Like in many countries, the maternity leave in the U.S. varies per company; adding the fact that each state has their own take on this leave, too.

In a nutshell, maternity leave in the US works like this: the mother will notify the HR and the company. If eligible (both employer and employee), the mother will take the said leave.

It is in the employer’s decision to extend the leave for their employee if they deem it fit to do so. Many believe that this leave of absence from work heavily affects the health of mothers (also their little munchkins).

OB-GYN at the Obstetrics and Gynecology of San Jose, Suzanne Bovone, M.D., said that after birth is often the time of relationship-building with the baby and with the mother’s partners and family members.

It’s common to refer to the 12-week period immediately following childbirth as the fourth trimester. The period after birth is a continuance of change, just as each trimester of pregnancy brought about changes for the mother and the unborn child. A short maternity leave can cause relationship problems, anxiety, and depression. It can also make it impossible to get back to work.”

Do You Get Paid For Maternity Leave? 

Yes and no – let me explain.

Under the FLMA, the leaves are unpaid. However, the jobs and professions are taken care of that people can go back to it after their absence. Private employers have the upper hand in deciding whether they’ll pay their employees’ maternity leaves or not.

However, South Carolina, Georgia, and New Hampshire are the three states that offer paid parental leaves for their state employees.

But, the FEPLA or the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act is a different story. It is an act where Federal employees who are qualified are able to get up to 12 weeks of parental leave, should they are covered by Title 5.

The FEPLA’s requirements are as follows:

  • Must be a federal employee, eligible for the FMLA leave
  • Should meet the eligibility requirements of the FMLA

Is Maternity Leave Mandatory?

No, it is not for all business. The maternity leave is only mandatory to private sector businesses and companies under a condition. That is if they have at least 50 employees or more in 20 more workweeks in the previous or current calendar year.

Nevertheless, the law does not require businesses to observe maternity leave. It also doesn’t require them to give maternity benefits.

Jess, an owner of a small flower shop in the state of Pennsylvania, had about 11 employees, 2 of which are pregnant. She said that she will be covering their maternity leave and will pay them even while they’re out. This is just one example of how a private company has the option to help their employees out.

Are There US Maternity Leave Policies? 

As of writing, the only maternity leave laws in the country are the FMLA and the FEPLA. However, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found in 2019 that there are private sector employers and businesses that offer paid parental leave to their employees.

Here’s a graph based on their findings.

State Laws For Maternity Leave

Different states have varying laws regarding maternity leave. Some offer it, while some don’t. We interviewed Alex, a business owner with 40+ employees. He said that in his company, they don’t offer parental leave. However, he is drafting a ruling of having paid leaves (60% of their income) of up to a month to his employees to help cover the unpaid FMLA.

Can You Extend Your Maternity Leave? 

Under the law, 12 weeks is the time for a mother (parent) to be out of the office. Anything beyond that will be under the discrepancy of the employer. However, should you have other company-related leaves, you can use it to extend your maternity leave and rest longer.

What you need to do is to simply let your employer know about it ahead of time.

Can You Use Short-Term Disability For Maternity Leave?

Yes, short-term disability insurance can assist in covering parental leave. As per Experian, you can get one as a work benefit or purchase your own policy. This will allow you to receive a percentage of your salary even while you’re on a leave.


Here are a few commonly asked questions about some information on the maternity leave that mothers get in the United States!

How Do You Prepare For Maternity Leave? 

Preparation is the key to having a successful leave! To prepare, be sure to ask your HR about your maternity leave, and from there, devise a plan on how you can distribute roles and responsibilities. It’ll also be helpful to let your direct superiors know about it so they can plan ahead.

How Does Unpaid Leave Work? 

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), is the law where employees can get up to 12 weeks of leave that is unpaid and job-protected. The reason for this should be qualified family and medical reasons. It works like how regular leaves would – it’ll just be unpaid.

When Should I Take My Maternity Leave? 

The most ideal time to take maternity leave is about one to two weeks before your due date. But, you can work up until your due date, if you want to.

Final Verdict

Are you planning to take maternity leave? Or do you know someone who is? Never hesitate to go back to this guide for information and guidance about taking maternity leave! 

Photo of author
Daisy Martinez, a Certified Financial Planner and mother of two, blends finance expertise from Ohio State and Anderson School of Management with hands-on parenting insights. Founder of "" and "", she's passionate about guiding parents in financial and parenting realms.

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