Menu

What you need to know about taking maternity leave during a global pandemic

We've made figuring out what protections, benefits and work leave you might be eligible for a little easier. 👇

maternity leave during coronavirus pandemic

Moms and moms-to-be face unprecedented challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, from preparing for a safe birth to preparing for a different postpartum experience than you might have imagined. And if your baby shower wasn't canceled altogether, it's a miracle.

So let's make figuring out what protections, benefits and work leave you might be eligible for a little easier. We asked Elizabeth Gedmark, Vice President of A Better Balance: The Work & Family Legal Center, to answer pressing questions about maternity leave and protections for pregnant workers during the pandemic.

Here's what to know about maternity leave and workplace protections for pregnant workers right now.


I heard FMLA was expanded—what does that mean for my maternity leave?

Sadly, we're still waiting on a national paid maternity leave policy. Today, parental leave in the U.S. is still governed by the same patchwork of state regulations, employer policies and short-term disability coverage, in the absence of a federal paid parental leave law. But FMLA has been given a temporary emergency upgrade in response to the pandemic.

Just as a refresher, federal FMLA law already covers 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for eligible employees who need time off from work to care for a newborn or other family member. Also, some states already have expanded FMLA laws that offer paid leave, additional time off or both. Most American women who take maternity leave patch together a combination of paid sick leave (if available), paid vacation time (again, if available), partially-paid disability leave (depending on what their state offers), and FMLA leave (which could be paid or unpaid, again, depending on the state).

As of April 2020, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (FMLA Expansion) made some families eligible for additional partially paid leave, if they are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. This expansion is in effect through December 31, 2020.

Sadly, this doesn't mean women who use FMLA for maternity leave during the pandemic are getting any extra time off.

What it does mean: After taking two weeks paid sick leave, employees who have been employed for at least 30 days may be eligible for up to an additional 10 weeks of partially paid expanded family and medical leave if they are unable to work because they are sick with COVID-19 or quarantined, a family member is sick with COVID-19, or they cannot work because their child's school or childcare provider has closed because of the pandemic.

That said, here are two ways in which the FMLA Expansion might help extend your maternity leave, depending on your situation, your employer's policies and your state (be sure to talk to your employer or get a consult from the Better Balance hotline):

  • If you were planning to use FMLA for maternity leave, and you have an older child (or children) whose daycare or school has closed because of the pandemic, you may be able to use the FMLA Expansion to cover up to 10 weeks of partially-paid leave if you are unable to work as a result, without eating into your 12 weeks of regular FMLA leave after you give birth.
  • If you were planning to use FMLA for maternity leave, and your partner or another family member gets sick with COVID-19, you may be able to use the FMLA Expansion to cover up to 10 weeks of partially-paid leave in order to help care for your family member, without eating into your 12 weeks of regular FMLA leave after you give birth.

Am I eligible for paid parental leave because of the pandemic?

"Parents are eligible for paid leave under the new federal law, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, if they are unable to work because their child's school or daycare is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic," says Elizabeth Gedmark, Vice President of A Better Balance: The Work & Family Legal Center.

If you are unable to work because your child's school or childcare provider has closed due to the pandemic, you can take up to 12 weeks of this emergency paid family leave, as well as emergency paid sick leave.

Gedmark notes, however, that private sector employers with more than 500 employees are exempt from the law. Health care provider employers and those employing emergency responders may also choose to exempt employees.

There are some additional limitations to paid parental leave under the FFCRA to be aware of as well. Paid leave for people who are unable to work due to their own quarantine or symptoms of coronavirus maxes out at $5,110 for two weeks. And paid family leave for workers who are unable to work because of a childcare or school closure is capped at up to two-thirds of pay for 12 weeks, for a maximum of $10,000, after a 10-day unpaid waiting period.

Are pregnant women and new mothers entitled to any additional legal or workplace protections during the coronavirus pandemic?

"Women are not necessarily entitled to additional legal or workplace protections during their pregnancies because of the coronavirus pandemic, but existing protections do still apply even in the midst of this public health crisis," says Gedmark.

"For example, you have a right not to be discriminated against on the basis of your pregnancy, meaning you can't be targeted for COVID-19 related layoffs because of your pregnancy. Your employer also can't unilaterally cut your hours or pressure you to stay home due to your pregnancy," Gedmark notes.

I'm pregnant and worried about my safety on the job during the pandemic. What are my options?

If you are pregnant during the pandemic and you are thinking about quitting because you are scared of the potential risk to your health, requesting a reasonable accommodation at your workplace may allow you to stay attached to your job while protecting the health of your pregnancy, according to Gedmark.

Depending on the state you live in and your individual circumstances, you may have a right to request reasonable accommodations for your pregnancy under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, or a state pregnancy accommodation law. "Reasonable accommodations" could include personal protective equipment, a transfer, a workspace that allows for social distancing or a leave of absence. "In some states, pregnant workers may also be able to receive temporary disability benefits, which could be an alternative to seeking unemployment insurance," Gedmark says.

What if I'm pregnant and I'm advised by my care provider to self-quarantine—am I entitled to any protections or paid time off?

"Yes!" says Gedmark. "A pregnant worker advised by her healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19 may be entitled to job protection so she can't be fired, and/or entitled to paid time off under federal or state paid leave laws, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act."

Find more resources and information for maternity leave during the coronavirus pandemic at A Better Balance.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Life

A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

Keep reading Show less
Life