Maternity leave option varies with firm’s size
Q: I work for a 20-person technology firm in the Boston area. I asked our controller about taking a leave [under the Family Medical Leave Act] because I am expecting a baby in August. The controller told me there is no FMLA leave available to me because of the company size. This was a shock to me since I really thought I would receive 12 weeks off with my baby. Am I eligible for anything? Or just the sick time I have accrued?
A: The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only applies to private-sector employers with 50 or more employees. If your employer only has 20 or so employees, your firm does not have to comply. You may, however, be eligible for a leave under the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act, which was recently renamed Parental Leave because it must be applied in a gender-neutral manner. This law requires employers with six or more employees to provide eight weeks of leave for the birth of children.
The leave does not have to be paid. As the employee, you must have completed an initial probationary period of no more than three months. The Massachusetts law requires that the employee requesting leave give at least two weeks' notice of the anticipated start and return dates.
Effective July 1, there is a new sick time law in Massachusetts. Since your company has 11 or more employees, a worker may use up to 40 hours — one week — of accrued paid sick time per calendar year. Your employer may offer also a short-term disability plan to employees.
It may be worth asking about the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act, any sick time (or personal, vacation, floating holidays, etc.) you may have earned or accrued, and if your company offers a disability plan.
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group, a human resources consulting firm.