Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Practical adoption advice for your workplace
"Does my company have adoption assistance?"
The answer to this question should be in your benefits summary; however, it is another good question to discuss with your HR and benefits departments. Many private companies do offer this wonderful benefit. The amount reimbursed can vary from $2,500 - $10,000 (per adoption), and is often dependent on the employee's eligibility (full time v. part time employee). Additionally, it is important to note that the company has discretion on when the adoption assistance is paid. It's best to contact your HR department to discuss how this benefit could apply to you and your adoption. Most often, you would receive the funds after your adoption is finalized. If your company does not offer adoption assistance, The Dave Thomas Foundation provides Adoption-Friendly Workplace kits that offer guidance on helping employers become more adoption friendly. To learn more, please visit The Dave Thomas Foundation website.
"Do I receive maternity leave for an adoption?"
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for the adoption of a child. Eligibility depends on your employers guidelines, but sometimes depends on the length of time you have been employed as a full time employee. The leave must be used within the first year after the placement of the child. It is important to know what is expected of you as the employee, as far as communication of leave. We would advise you speak directly with Human Resources professionals within your company and receive confirmation of your leave and benefits in writing. According to FMLA, the leave may not be protected if the employee fails to provide the employer with enough information, and one must comply with their specific employer's policies for requesting leave. Generally speaking, for leaves that are foreseeable, the employee must give the employer at least 30 days advance notice of the need to take FMLA. For the purposes of adoption, when the actual beginning date of leave is not always known, it is best to let your employer know as soon as possible and keep them updated on estimated timelines. In addition, your employer may use a Third Party Administrator (TPA) to contract our certain parts of your benefits. If your company uses a TPA, you may be required to contact the TPA at least 30 days in advance to begin your claim for FMLA. Once your child is in your custody, you are required to complete paperwork within an allotted amount of ime. It is important to complete the necessary documentation within the time frame or your leave can be denied. Contact your HR department on how to obtain a copy of these benefits to make sure you are in compliance.
"Will I be paid during my maternity leave?"
Individual companies vary in terms of paid maternity leave benefits. It is always best to speak with a professional in HR (and do not forget to get the information in writing!) to learn more about what your company offers. In general, paid maternity leave benefits are through Short Term Disability - which does not cover a mother who has adopted as they are not deemed "disabled". Employers have different maternity leave programs. One example of a program may provide 2 weeks of paid maternity leave to parents through adoption and birth. However, the remaining coverage available to parents through birth is through their short-term disability and medical leave banks. Typically, this includes taking 40 hours of Paid Time Off (PTO), followed by receiving 60% of your salary for up to six weeks through short-term disability. If you have a medical leave bank (i.e. time off specifially for medical needs), you can add those hours to your disability to receive your full compensation. However, some parents are unable to use medical leave bank and short-term disability pay as an adoptive parent so this is something to inquire about. Other companies do not have specific "maternity or adoption leave benefits". They may have only the short-term disability benefits as described above, and of course any PTO that you have saved and would like to use. There are varying opinions about the "medical necessity" of leave for a newly adopted child, especially those not adopted at birth. While I think we can all appreciate and recognize that leave is absolutely necessary for the emotional and psychological health of the child, unfortunately it is not universally recognized as a medical necessity. As an individual, you can certainly petition the medical necessity of your leave through letters from adoption social workers and doctors.
- United States Department of Labor, Family and Medical Leave Act. Wage and Hour Division (WHD) website. http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/. Updated June 20, 2014. Accessed August 18, 2014.
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