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Are you pregnant or planning to start a family? You should know that you have the right to take a leave of absence at any time during your pregnancy with medical documentation or during your baby’s first years.
Family Medical Leave Act
The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of paid and/or unpaid leave for maternity and/or unpaid leave for the care of a child under age 1, adoption or the start of foster care. Either parent can take an unpaid child care leave under FMLA.
You are eligible for FMLA if you have worked for a total of at least 12 months as of the date that the leave commences (the 12 months need not be consecutive) and 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months. Your health benefits will continue during an FMLA leave. The Department of Education must take you back after the 12 weeks of maternity leave.
Leave of absence
If you are a regularly appointed female staff member, you are also entitled to a paid leave of absence (using the days in your sick bank, called Cumulative Absence Reserve, or CAR) or unpaid leave (if you have no sick time). This maternity leave of absence will run concurrently with your FMLA leave for the first 12 weeks.
A maternity leave of absence can begin in your ninth month — or earlier, with medical documentation (restoration of health leave) — and continues during your recuperation period, which is six weeks after your baby’s birth in a routine pregnancy and eight weeks with a C-section with medical documentation.
If you choose to extend your leave of absence beyond 12 weeks, you can apply for a contractual child care leave. The DOE, however, is under no obligation to approve taking you back in the middle of a term.
Either parent can apply for a contractual child care leave, though you and your spouse cannot take a child care leave at the same time if you are both DOE employees.
This unpaid leave, which does not include health benefits, begins after the six- or eight-week recuperation period and can last for up to four years — through the first day of the school year following your child’s 4th birthday. Your school secretary can give you the necessary forms to fill out or you can download the forms from the DOE’s website.
During a maternity leave, you must use the days in your sick bank if you have them. To extend your paid leave, pedagogues can also borrow up to 20 sick days; paraprofessionals can borrow up to 10 sick days.
Pedagogues are also entitled to a “calendar month” grace period, which pays you for all weekends and holidays for the calendar month following the exhaustion of the days in your sick bank and/or your borrowed days. The advantage of borrowing days and using the grace period is that since you remain on payroll, those days count toward your pension, seniority and pro-rata summer vacation pay, and it also keeps your health benefits intact.
Additionally, members may be entitled to four months of Special Leave of Absence Coverage (SLOAC). Please be aware that to be eligible for SLOAC, you must exhaust your CAR and end your grace period and borrowed days at least one day before the baby turns 6 weeks old (in a routine pregnancy) or 8 weeks old (with a documented C-section).
Your payroll secretary can advise you as to how many days you have in your sick bank. You must apply for your leave of absence on the DOE’s online SOLAS system. See frequently asked questions about the SOLAS system.
In a routine pregnancy, your health benefits under FMLA continue until your baby is 6 weeks old or until you have been on leave for 12 weeks. If you have used up your 12 weeks of health benefits under FMLA and want to stay home with the baby beyond the recuperation period — and you are not otherwise ill — you must apply for an extension of your unpaid child care leave (without health benefits).
If you are disabled as the result of pregnancy or other illness, you can apply for a restoration of health leave. This extended unpaid leave, which requires medical documentation, may provide you with up to a year of health benefits.
A UFT Welfare Fund child care benefit extends your supplemental health benefits for up to six months following the birth or adoption of a child. This benefit begins upon termination of your supplemental health benefits covered under your leave. You need to apply for this benefit by completing the UFT Welfare Fund Child Care Coverage Request Form and submitting it, along with a copy of your child care leave, to the Welfare Fund.
If you have additional questions about maternity or child care leaves, call your UFT borough office or check the UFT’s online calendar for upcoming UFT maternity workshops.