Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Adoption Leave
Understanding Your Adoption Leave Rights
The adoption process can be long and challenging. It takes close to a year for most families, and during that time there’s a lot to do. Choosing an adoption agency, creating an adoption profile, meeting home study requirements, financing adoption fees — and that’s all before a prospective birth mother selects the family for an adoption opportunity.
At the end of this process, most families feel they need a break. Which leads to the question: can you get maternity leave for adoption? What about adoption paternity leave? Are there FMLA adoption protections like there are in the case of biological births?
There’s good news for anyone asking these questions. Here’s what you need to know about adoption, FMLA, your rights and how to advocate for them. While we hope the following article provides some helpful information about FMLA and adoption, keep in mind that the law can be complicated, and nothing here should be taken as legal advice. If you have specific questions about parental leave for adoption, talk to your employer or consult an attorney.
Do You Get Maternity Leave if You Adopt?
In short, yes — as long as you work for a covered employer and are eligible to take leave, you can take paternity or maternity leave for adoption (more on eligibility below). While there is no specific adoption leave act, adoptive families are protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). There’s even a chance your employer will provide adoption leave pay during this time. There is also a chance, on the other hand, that your employer won’t be as supportive in this situation. That’s why it’s important to understand your adoption leave rights, and this guide will help you do that.
What Is Adoption Leave?
It is important for all new parents, by biology, adoption or other means, to have time away from work and other obligations to bond with their children. That’s why adoption leave exists; maternity and paternity leave for adoption allow these new parents time to adjust to their new family dynamic and give their children the care they need.
Parental leave for adoption works similarly to traditional maternity leave in most cases. Your employer’s child adoption leave rules will determine whether or not this leave is paid and how long it lasts. However, both maternity leave for biological children and maternity leave for adoptive parents are protected by the FMLA.
What is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?
This federal protection was first passed in 1993. According to the Department of Labor, “The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.”
There are a couple qualifiers to unpack in this adoption leave definition.
Eligible Employees: You are an eligible employee for FMLA adoption leave if you work for a covered employer (more on that in the next point), have worked 1,250 hours in the previous calendar year (that comes out to about 26 hours per week), work for a company or agency with 50 or more employees and have worked for your employer for at least 12 months.
Covered Employers: Most, but not all, employers are required to meet FMLA standards for employees. Covered employers include public agencies and local education agencies, as well as private sector employers of 50 or more people. This means that if you work for a smaller private company, the company may not be federally required to provide unpaid maternity leave for adoption.
Specified Family and Medical Reasons: An eligible employee is protected under the FMLA after the birth of a new baby, a placement with a child through private adoption or foster care, to care for a family member with a serious medical condition or if the employee has a serious medical condition. The important part for anyone considering adoption is that adoption leave rights are guaranteed for those who meet the qualifications to be covered by the FMLA.
The Department of Labor provides more answers to frequently asked questions on its website. While the child adoption leave provided by the FMLA is a good federal protection to have, many have advocated for a more inclusive version of the FMLA. The qualifications for employees and employers can leave many people outside of the protection, and there is a significant push in the U.S. for guaranteed paid maternity leave. These things, however, have yet to manifest.
FMLA Adoption Leave
Maternity leave for adoption and paternity leave for adoption can be very important to hopeful adoptive families for several reasons. First, because they may need to plan to stay in the state where their child is born for an average of 7 to 10 business days to comply with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). And second, because new adoptive parents understandably desire additional time to form a connection with their child when they get to bring him or her home. FMLA adoption leave can provide the time needed to complete a placement and begin the lifelong process of bonding with the baby.
Knowing Your Adoption Leave Rights
It’s important to understand your adoption leave rights. If you are an eligible employee working for a covered employer, you can take protected child adoption leave. Many employers are supportive of parents during this time, especially employers who go above and beyond federal requirements to offer adoption leave pay. The best way to approach adoption leave is to speak with your director or HR representative early on in the adoption process. Ask about your company’s adoption leave policy and if it does include something like adoption leave pay. The FMLA does protect your right to adoption maternity leave, but does not guarantee both adoption leave and pay. Working with your employer early on can help clear this up and make the whole situation better for both sides.
However, there will be employers who are not as generous or supportive. Pregnancy discrimination is awful, but it is real. The same type of thing can happen to adoptive parents whose employer is disgruntled about losing productivity due to adoption maternity leave or paternity leave for adoptive fathers. If you feel your employer is not honoring your adoption leave entitlement, you should speak to an attorney immediately.
Understanding the FMLA and adoption will help you protect your adoption leave rights and receive the time off needed for an adoption. You can learn more about the FMLA from the Department of Labor. You can also speak to an adoption specialist about adoption leave by calling 1-800-ADOPTION.
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