When I first realized that I was expecting a baby, a million thoughts raced through my mind. Eventually I was able to weed out the moderate to completely irrational ones (some irrational ones remained all nine months and, actually, have never left – but that’s a topic for another day). What I was left with was a relatively manageable list of things to consider and do before the baby was born. Near the top of that list were two issues that, in today’s world of two income homes, are faced by more and more women and their employers every day – maternity leave and day care.Family Leave Act
I’m lucky that I work for a firm that places a high value on family. Unfortunately, the United States as a whole is far behind many other countries when it comes to leaves of absence from work for new mothers. While more than 120 countries around the world provide paid maternity leave (28 weeks in the Czech Republic!) and health benefits by law, many do not, including the U.S. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of a child and care of a newborn. An employer may, however, voluntarily choose to pay for all or a portion of an employee’s maternity leave. In addition, there are some individual states, including New Jersey, which provide for some paid maternity benefits.
In New Jersey, a woman may be eligible for Temporary Disability Insurance benefits due to pregnancy. Generally, the payment period for a normal pregnancy is up to 4 weeks before the expected delivery date and up to 6 weeks after the actual delivery date. A longer period of disability is possible if there are medical complications certified by a physician. The State will pay a weekly amount equal to 2/3 of the employee’s average weekly wage, up to a maximum amount of $417.00. The maximum amount paid by the State is the lesser of 1/3 the employees total wages or 26 times the weekly benefit amount.
Certainly, if you’re an employer with 50 or more employees, you need to incorporate the Act into the conduct of your business and your personnel manual if you have one (which you should!!!). As an employer with less than 50 employees, it’s equally important to establish a policy for maternity leave, whatever it may be, as well as other leaves of absence from work due to medical conditions. A clear policy will benefit both employer and employee.
Those two little words can send chills through a parent and make them start to sweat. Quality day care can benefit an employer as much as it can the employee. Poor quality day care can make an employee less productive and lead to increased absence from work. Many employers are choosing to either operate a day care facility for their employees (and potentially others as well) or help their employees pay for day care expenses.
There are currently at least two bills pending in the State Legislature which would provide a tax deduction or tax credit for taxpayers, individuals, partnerships and corporations, who operate a licensed day care facility for their employees or pay the cost to an outside facility. In addition, employers may offer a “cafeteria plan” to their employees, whereby the employee can choose to segregate a portion of their pre-tax wages from each paycheck, up to a maximum of $5000 per year for married filing jointly, $2500 per year for married filing single, for use to pay child care expenses. One note about this type of plan, if the employee does not use all of the money set aside in a given year, it is forfeited.