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When do I tell my boss I’m expecting—and when should maternity leave start?
Q: When should I tell my employer that I am pregnant, and when should I start my maternity leave? How much time am I legally allowed to take off by law?
A: Your decision about timing a discussion with your employer depends on a number of factors. From your employer’s perspective, receiving the information sooner may help with planning for your leave. On the other hand, many women wish to keep their pregnancy private for as long as possible, hoping to avoid any negative repercussions from coworkers.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), signed into law in the United States in 1993, permits workers who are having a baby naturally or by adoption to take up to 12 weeks leave per year if their company meets certain conditions. Your company must have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius, and you must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the last year. Ideally, you should inform your employer at least 30 days before your planned leave that you wish to use this law. However, if you become sick early in the pregnancy (such as from morning sickness), the time off can be considered part of your 12-week leave. Certain companies have specific maternity leave policies, and your company’s human resource department should be able to inform you of any benefits your company offers.

While the FMLA can protect your job position, it does not require your employer to pay you for time you aren’t working. You may be able to maintain some income from accumulated sick leave, holiday time, private disability insurance, state disability benefits or paid leave by your employer.

In my experience, most women choose to begin maternity leave at 36 weeks, although some healthy and vigorous women prefer to continue working during the last month of pregnancy. Women with complicated pregnancies (such as women with high blood pressure, preterm labor or twins) will likely need to discontinue working well before 36 weeks. You should discuss your pregnancy with your doctor to plan appropriately for your maternity leave. Following delivery, American women working in companies without specific maternity leave policies often take six to eight weeks for postpartum recovery. This is in stark contrast to policies in some European countries, where women may be entitled to 26 weeks of paid maternity leave.