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After you have determined your eligibility for pregnancy-related benefits, you also need to be aware of how they may coordinate with the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA. This federal law entitles eligible employees to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons (such as the birth of a child) during a 12-month period.

The paid leave and the FMLA leave run concurrently, and the time taken off is counted against both.

The FMLA gets tricky in certain situations in which an employer is allowed to require an employee seeking FMLA leave to use accrued paid leave (such as vacation time, personal time, pregnancy-related disability leave, or sick leave) as a substitute for unpaid FMLA leave. In these instances, your paid leave and your FMLA leave run concurrently, and the time taken off is counted against both. This is why it’s important for you to understand your employer’s benefit offerings and whether your company requires its workers to use paid leave as a substitute for unpaid FMLA leave.

Employers have their own FMLA responsibilities. According to federal law, an employer wishing to count paid leave against the 12-week unpaid FMLA leave must inform the employee within two days of learning of the employee’s FMLA leave request. If the employer fails to meet this deadline, it may not retroactively designate the leave as counting toward FMLA leave. Only the portion of the leave following the notification by the employer may be designated as FMLA leave and counted against the 12-week entitlement.

For example, if your employer knows on Monday morning that your paid leave starting that day is for FMLA reasons, it must make its FMLA designation by Wednesday morning. If your employer waits until the following Monday, the leave taken the prior week does not count as FMLA and you begin your second week of leave with a full 12 weeks of FMLA eligibility remaining.

In order to qualify for FMLA benefits, an employee must have worked for the employer for the previous 12 months.

What does this mean if you’re pregnant and you qualify for both pregnancy-related disability benefits and FMLA leave? Your employer can require your pregnancy-related disability benefits to run at the same time as your FMLA leave. For example, if you have 12 weeks of paid vacation and disability leave that you take, you have used up both your paid disability leave and unpaid FMLA benefits. You do not get an extra 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

Key provisions of the FMLA

Not everyone is eligible to receive benefits under the FMLA, according to the United States Department of Labor, and there are several key regulations. Among them are:

  • The FMLA applies to all public agencies, including state, local, and federal employers, and to schools.
  • The FMLA applies to private-sector employers that employed 50 or more employees in 20 or more work weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.
  • In order to qualify for FMLA benefits, you must:
  • If you are FMLA eligible, your employer must grant you a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:
  • If your spouse works for the same employer, you are jointly entitled to a combined total of 12 weeks of family leave.

Keeping your benefits under FMLA

FMLA requires your employer to maintain your health insurance and job benefits during your FMLA leave.

One of the most important aspects of FMLA is that it requires your employer to maintain your health insurance and job benefits during your FMLA leave. Under federal law, your employer must continue your health insurance on the same terms as if you had continued to work. If applicable, your employer will make arrangements for you to pay your share of health insurance premiums while you are out on leave.

But take note. Your employer also has the legal right to seek to recover any health insurance premiums it paid to maintain your health insurance coverage if you fail to return to work from your FMLA leave.

FMLA also requires your employer to restore you to your original job when you return from your FMLA leave, or to an equivalent job with equivalent pay and benefits. Additionally, your use of FMLA benefits cannot result in the loss of any benefit that you earned or were entitled to before using your FMLA leave.

If you believe your employer has violated any provisions of the FMLA, you can file a complaint with the United States Department of Labor (DOL), the agency that oversees this federal law. For more information and the appropriate forms, visit the DOL Web site.

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Michelle Megna


Michelle, the former editorial director, insurance, at QuinStreet, is a writer, editor and expert on car insurance and personal finance. Prior to joining QuinStreet, she reported and edited articles on technology, lifestyle, education and government for magazines, websites and major newspapers, including the New York Daily News.