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Maternity Leave Policies: 5 Things to Look For

Like an early Mother's Day gift, Yahoo's new maternity leave policy, announced last week, is being well received by women in the workforce. But chances are, your employer may not be so generous when it comes to time off and other benefits for new moms.

Yahoo now offers mothers up to 16 weeks of paid time off after childbirth. The company will also give new parents $500 to spend on things such as house cleaning, groceries and babysitters.

For everyone else who doesn't work at Yahoo, what should you look for in your company's maternity leave policy? Here are five questions to ask at work:

  1. How much time off do you get? Most large employers are legally required to give you 12 weeks unpaid time off. But companies can sweeten the deal if they want. Google, for example, offers 18 to 22 weeks paid time off, while Facebook offers four months off to both moms and dads, Silicon Valley's KNTV reports. Ford gives up to eight weeks paid time to moms (sorry pops!). But this can get tricky if you're a high-level employee and your absence could disrupt the business.
  2. Are dads and domestic partners covered? Many companies like Yahoo are adopting more progressive maternity leave policies, including generous paternity leave. Find out of your employer is moving with the times and offers a good chunk of time off for dads and domestic partners.
  3. Do you get paid time off? Under the FMLA, a new mother is guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid time off, in most cases. There's no requirement to pay you during that time. But businesses are trying to make maternity and paternity leave more financially friendly to attract and retain talent. If you don't get paid leave, it might be worth negotiating to get it.
  4. How much notice do you have to give? Maternity leave is an adjustment for the new parents -- and their employers. Your employer will have to make staffing adjustments during your absence and might need notice to plan. Don't be afraid to give notice. It's against the law to fire an employee for getting pregnant or asking for maternity leave.
  5. Are you allowed to breastfeed at work? Breastfeeding laws can get pretty complicated. But one thing is for sure: If you want to breastfeed or pump breast milk at work, you should have the right to do so.

While your workplace may have a maternity leave policy in place, it's not uncommon for employers to violate their own rules or for the rules to be unlawful. If you have concerns about maternity leave and how it applies to you, it may be time to consult an experienced employment-rights lawyer near you.

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