For my non-US readers: Yes, in the United States, it is rare for an employer to give paid maternity leave benefits for a mom-to-be. She has to cobble it from various kinds of paid leave, like unused sick days and vacation days that accumulate over time. As a community college professor, I don’t get paid vacation days (because faculty get school holidays like Christmas and Spring Break), but I do have paid leave due to sickness and “extenuated circumstances”, and I exhausted them in order to pay for the first month.
Fortunately (and I had completely forgotten this until recently), I had opted for voluntary short-term disability insurance when I was hired, and I had filled out the paperwork before I left for my leave. This was not my idea but at the insistance of the HR Benfits Coordinator at my workplace. As it turns out, after the first 30 days of a mother’s leave due to post-partum recovery (that’s what the insurance folks call maternity leave), short-term disability benefits kick in.
So I was happily surprised to receive last week a check in the mail, from my short-term disability insurance carrier, that covered the remaining two weeks of my maternity leave. The amount was a bit less than what I would’ve made working those two weeks (it was a little over $1300), but the difference ($700) was more than tolerable.
Lesson learned: Pay for the optional short-term disability insurance. For any working woman in the United States who plans to take some time off in order to be with her baby, she can’t afford not to.