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Pennsylvania Maternity Leave

What is the legal requirement in Pennsylvania for a small business (5 employees) for maternity leave with regard to time off and compensation? If no legal requirements exist, what is considered resonable for a good employee?

Pennsylvania has no specific law requiring paid or unpaid maternity leave, so an employer with only 5 workers is not obligated to offer any leave. While a number of state and federal laws don’t apply to small employers, it’s smart to conform to them, anyway. For one thing, it means as the company grows there will be fewer HR problems.  

In Pennsylvania and across the nation, most employers offer 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave to new mothers. Normally, the woman returns to the same job that she held prior to taking leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, requires that employers with 20 or more workers offer this leave. Many smaller employers simply choose to comply.

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act or PDA requires that if the company offers benefits to workers with other types of short-term disabilities, such as a heart attack or bypass surgery, they offer the same benefits to pregnant women. This law applies only to companies with 15 or more employees, but again, it’s a good practice for an employer to follow.

There are several issues that an employer or small business owner should consider when determining maternity leave benefits for the first time.  How this maternity leave is handled will determine how all future cases are handled. It would be very difficult to grant paid maternity leave in this case, and deny it in the future to other employees. Doing so would expose the employer to charges of discrimination.

The employee’s performance has nothing to do with this decision. That’s because legally, the same benefit will have to be offered to all pregnant employees in the future. Suppose the employer wants to give Jane 3 months of paid leave because she is an excellent employee. Next year another employee, Lisa, becomes pregnant. Even though Lisa is a poor employee who is one step away from being terminated for incompetence, she must be granted the same benefits, or the employer will likely face a lawsuit for discrimination.

Bear in mind that under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, any leave – paid or unpaid—that is offered to new mothers must also be offered to new fathers. If you give Jane 3 months of paid leave when her child is born, you must do the same for Tom when his wife or girlfriend has a baby. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act applies to every company with 4 or more employees, so it is a factor here.

Creating the maternity leave policy will also set a precedence on how the company handles other temporary disabilities. If Jane receives paid leave for her maternity disability (usually 6 weeks, but it can be up to 6 months) then next year when Tom is injured racing his motorcycle, he must receive the same benefits. Again, this is under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

Because Jane is such an excellent employee, it may be that the employer wants to reward her for a job well done, without setting a precedent. One way to do this would be to give Jane 12 weeks of unpaid family leave. If the company is in the habit of awarding discretionary holiday or end-of-year bonuses, the employer may choose to reward Jane for her superior performance with a bonus equal to 1 – 3 months salary. In this case, the bonus relates to Jane’s performance, not her pregnancy. As long as this bonus is not given at the beginning of Jane’s maternity leave, but during an annual review or event, then the employer is not creating an expensive precedent.

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007 at 9:29 am and is filed under
Benefits, Compensation, Human Resources Management.
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6 Responses to “Pennsylvania Maternity Leave”

  1. At this point, is it worth it? » Dorie Morgan’s Rising Up Says:

    [...] childcare because you won’t want to give up your career and you can’t get more than six weeks maternity leave without losing your [...]

  2. Over Sixty Hours a Week and Still, It’s Maybe Not Enough : Brazen Careerist - A Career Center for Generation Y Says:

    [...] childcare because you won’t want to give up your career and you can’t get more than six weeks maternity leave without losing your [...]

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  4. Caitlin Says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Calvin!~ Caitlin

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