The amount of time you can take as for maternity/paternity/parental leave is an important concern for any new parent. It’s also a concern for the parent’s employer. The level of benefits, if any, can depend on many factors including such things as your employer’s policies and the number of people it employs. It may also be influenced by the number of practices, as well as their locations. Of course, a primary consideration is whether the practice has 50 or more employees: if so, it must follow the requirements of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
More information about the Act can be found in the article titled "Highlights of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)," which is included in the ADA’s Guidelines for Practice Success™ (GPS™) Module on Managing Pregnancy.
New dentists and dental students sometimes inquire about the wisdom of attempting to negotiate parental leave into their employment agreements or contracts. While the decision regarding whether or not to broach the subject during an interview or the negotiating phase is completely up to you, many human resources professionals advise against discussing the topic since your prospective employer is bound by all applicable federal and state regulations and likely already has policies in place regarding staff medical leave.
It’s possible that your employer may have a single standard employment contract or agreement for all employees and amending the language of the contract for you could put him/her in a tenuous position should someone else allege favoritism or unfair treatment.
In addition, while it would be illegal for a prospective employer to not offer someone a position because they may be thinking about starting a family, it’s possible that knowing that you plan to do so could cause the hiring manager to scrutinize your skills and career history more thoroughly than those of other candidates.
Be aware that some states have laws regarding medical leaves and/or parental leaves which are sometimes more restrictive than those issued by the federal government. The National Partnership for Women and Families has created a table detailing the status of State Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Laws (PDF) that may provide you with some helpful information.
The Executive Board of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have issued a policy statement on Paid Parental Leave that offers guidelines intended to serve as a framework for paid parental leave policies for all workers with additional guidelines recommended for physicians. While these guidelines may be more generous than leaves of absence mandated by federal and state regulations, they may offer some suggestions for concepts to broach with your employer should they be considering a review of the practice’s policy and benefits relating to parental leave.
In an effort to collect basic information about maternity-related issues in dental practices, the American Dental Association (ADA) conducted a survey to solicit data that could provide a very general framework for what to expect when anticipating a maternity/paternity/parental leave of absence. While the data cannot predict what level of benefit might be available in the practice where you work, the information can provide an idea of what’s generally available in practices according to its size and practice model. Benefits available through your employer may vary; consult your Human Resources representative or practice administrator/manager for specific information and answers to any questions you might have.
- U.S. Department of Labor’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- National Partnership for Women and Families’ State Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Laws (PDF)
- Executive Board of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists policy statement on Paid Parental Leave
- From the ADA’s Guidelines for Practice Success™ (GPS™) Module on Managing Pregnancy: