HR Guides Expectant Parents through Leave Options

As Open Enrollment season approaches, many employees may be thinking about how their health or families could change in the coming year. One important life change that requires benefits planning is welcoming a new child.

Human Resources offers regular presentations through their Be Well series that offers a wealth of information on using benefits for maternity leave. The team held its most recent session on this topic in September. 

Athena Jones, leave management specialist for Human Resources, provided an overview of options available for Tech employees, emphasizing that the Institute fully supports parents taking time to bond with their new children.

Below is a primer, but the full presentation is available for view at ohr.gatech.edu/be-well-presentations.

The Right to Leave

Employees are protected while taking leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA was designed to give employees the right to time off and return to their same or equivalent job following medical leave. In the case of pregnancy, it provides for 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month window for a birth or adoption. Employees must have been employed for 12 months or worked 1,250 hours during the previous year to be eligible. 

Beyond FMLA protecting employees’ right to leave, there are two primary methods for Tech employees to receive compensation while on leave. Both are options for either pregnancy or adoption. One uses short-term disability along with sick and vacation time, and the other only uses a combination of sick and vacation leave. (For adoption, only vacation time is used.)

The Short-Term Disability Route

For employees who have enrolled in Tech’s short-term disability plan through MetLife, they may use short-term disability during maternity leave. Short-term disability coverage kicks in following a 14-day elimination period, during which time employees are charged sick leave for work days. 

Short-term disability coverage pays out 60 percent of an employee’s gross salary for six weeks following a natural delivery or eight weeks after a cesarean delivery. Both those time frames include the elimination period, meaning employees receive short-term disability payments for either four or six weeks, respectively.

Following that time, employees can use vacation leave or unpaid leave through the remainder of their FMLA time.  

Those enrolled in short-term disability are not required to file a claim and use the coverage for maternity leave if they have sick and vacation time they prefer to use instead.

When using short-term disability:

  • Employees do not receive a Tech paycheck.
  • Employees are billed through the Bursar’s Office for health care premiums (still at the Tech employee rate), since they are not being deducted via paycheck.
  • Disability plan deductions and spending account deductions are stopped.

Employees may apply for short-term disability coverage during open enrollment but may not be eligible if they are already pregnant. For those who enrolled as new employees, Jones advises keeping the coverage as a safeguard, should they choose to use it for maternity in the future.

Using Sick and Vacation Time

For employees not enrolled in or not choosing to use short-term disability benefits, they can use sick time for up to six weeks for a natural delivery or eight weeks for a cesarean, then use vacation time until they return to work. Sick time may also be used for doctor appointments, sick children, or complications with pregnancy. 

When using sick or vacation time for leave:

  • Employees continue to receive their Tech paycheck with benefits deductions.
  • Disability plan deductions and spending account deductions continue.

Don’t Forget the Forms

Following a birth, Tech employees who want to add their new child to their benefits should submit a Family Status Change Form within 30 days of birth.  

Employees will also need to complete an FMLA Return to Work Form, which needs to be completed by a physician or include a note on a doctor’s letterhead confirming that the employee is cleared to return to work. This form must be submitted to Georgia Tech Human Resources before any work is resumed, including teleworking. 

While teleworking is an option, Jones emphasized that employees are not required to telework during their leave. 

“If you want to, your position is amenable to it, and your manager and doctor agree, you may begin teleworking and go to a reduced FMLA schedule,” she said. Hours worked remotely would not count against FMLA time.

Given the nature of pregnancy and child delivery, Jones emphasized that plans can, and often do, change. Working remotely or starting back part-time may be good options but should be discussed in detail between employees and managers.  

“Communication is critical for any type of leave, especially if you are gradually coming back,” she said. 

Each employee’s case may be different, and Jones is open to discussing options with any employee who anticipates taking leave. She can be reached at 404-385-2377 or athena.jones@ohr.gatech.edu.  

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  • Maternity Leave

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Kristen Bailey

Institute Communications