How to Pay for Family Leave for Moms and Dads

Chances are, you probably already know family leave for new parents is a bit of a problem in this country.

While the Family and Medical Leave Act protects both women’s and men’s right to take time off when they welcome home a new baby, about 40 percent of the workforce isn’t eligible for FMLA

And for those who do qualify for the time off, FMLA doesn’t guarantee paid family leave.

Even President Obama has talked publicly about the problem. As he said in his State of the Union Address earlier this year:

We are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers.

Unpaid Leave is Often the Answer

New parents are often forced to piece together vacation time, sick time, and unpaid time off to cover family leave. Sometimes, financial concerns mean mothers go back to work long before they’re ready.

So what are working families to do when it comes to covering their incomes during maternity and paternity leave?

After all, it’s a time when they could definitely use extra funds for diapers, medical bills, and formula.

Of course, families can rely on savings to get by during family leave, but that is rarely enough. Plus, no one wants to deplete the bulk of their savings when they have small children at home.

Here are a few resources parents can use to cover family leave.

Short-term Disability Insurance

Many mothers don’t realize disability insurance can help cover their lost income during the recovery from childbirth.

Additionally, if there are complications from pregnancy that require a woman to go on bedrest or to otherwise stop working before she has the baby, short-term disability can help bridge the income gap.

If you’re shopping for a disability insurance policy to cover maternity leave, be sure to ask some key questions:

  • Whether pregnancy and childbirth are covered—not all policies cover recovery from non-complicated childbirth.
  • What the benefit period would be for a vaginal or cesarian delivery.
  • How long the policy must have been in effect before a woman gets pregnant in order to cover the birth and any possible complications from pregnancy.
  • How much your policy will pay when you use it—it may cover all or just part of your paycheck.

Disability insurance doesn’t cover family leave for fathers of new babies, as dads are still physically able to work. Likewise, disability insurance does’t apply to family leave for parents who adopt children.

Government Family Leave Programs

Three states cover a percentage of income for parents during both maternity and paternity leave: California, New Jersey, and Rhode IslandThese states provide family leave benefits to both mothers and fathers at a percentage of their income.

Additionally, there are certain circumstances under which parents may be able to collect state unemployment benefits during family leave:

  • One option is for a disabled mother to try to collect unemployment during her leave.
  • Another possibility is for the mother’s spouse to file for unemployment benefits while he or she cares for the disabled mom. That’s because caring for a disabled family member can be a qualifier, depending on your state and your particular circumstances.

The rules vary a great deal, so it’s best to reach out to your local employment agency for more information about whether you might be able to collect unemployment while you’re on unpaid family leave.

Family Leave Requires Creative Solutions

Many families grapple with how to cover unpaid family leave without causing serious damages to the family’s finances. Fortunately, there are steps you can take in order to protect your income if you’re thinking about starting—or expanding—your family.

If you’d like information about a disability policy that will help you cover a working mother’s pay during family leave, reach out to one of our member companies. They can help you plan for your family’s next arrival.

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