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Maternity Leave for Nurses: What to Expect

December 17, 2015

Having a baby is one of the most magical and overwhelming experiences in life. Because of the toll labor can take on your body, as well as the need to bond with your new child, you will most likely take varying periods of maternity leave after your baby is born. Here is some basic information to help you plan for maternity leave as a nurse. 

Understanding Federal and State Laws

Federal law does not require employers to provide mothers with paid leave after they give birth or adopt a child. However, under the Family and Medical Leave Act, qualifying employers must allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. To qualify for this leave, you must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months before requesting leave, and you must have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer in the 12 months immediately preceding leave. 

Although all states must comply with federal maternity leave laws, many states have requirements of their own. In some cases, state laws may even provide paid maternity leave to nurses. 

Paid Maternity Leave

Even if your state doesn't mandate paid maternity leave, some employers still offer it. The specific rules differ by hospital. However, most employers will provide a specific amount of paid leave for nurses who give birth or adopt a child. In some cases, you may need to meet certain requirements before you will qualify for leave. For example, the employer may require you to work for the hospital for at least one year before you can use paid maternity leave. 

Using Paid Time Off/Vacation

If your employer doesn't provide paid maternity leave and you cannot afford to take unpaid leave, you may be able to arrange for paid time off after delivery by saving up accruable vacation days and using them after the baby is born. Before attempting this strategy, make sure that your vacation days won't expire and can be used in this manner. 

Travel Nursing Offers Flexibility 

If you are planning to have children in the near future, working as a travel nurse can provide you with an advantage. As a travel nurse, you can decide how long each of your assignments will be, so you can schedule time off when you need it. Because travel nurses earn significantly higher pay than other nurses, you may also be able to save up money to live on while you are on maternity leave. As soon as you are ready to go back to work, you can choose a suitable assignment and get started. 

Because maternity leave policies can vary so much from one hospital to another, you should always learn about your employer's policies before planning a pregnancy. By learning the rules in advance, you can ensure that you have the time you need to bond with your new baby.

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