So Ashley Hill (from our family of the week) and I are both adopting mamas who work outside the home. (I chose my words carefully, because I fully understand that stay-at-home moms have a very difficult job...and paid time off, or even a sick day, are just urban legend/luxuries.) But what a lot of people sometimes forget, or don’t know, is that adoption benefits in the workplace are very different than maternity benefits.
Many employers offer paid maternity leave for childbirth. And a growing number of employers are offering paid paternity leave, often giving fathers a week or more of paid leave beyond their paid vacation or sick time. But at most jobs, adding a child to one’s family through adoption doesn’t qualify for maternity leave or short-term disability. Unless your employer allows you to accrue PTO and carry it over to a new fiscal year, you’re facing a number of weeks or months of unpaid leave during and after the adoption process.
The Family Medical Leave Act enables adopting parents to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave without fear of losing their jobs. But only companies who employ more than 50 employees for 20 weeks of a year must adhere to that policy.
Fortunately, many companies are beginning to offer adoption benefits for their employees. Some offer one to six weeks of paid leave for adoption. Others offer to reimburse employees for a portion of qualified adoption expenses in lieu of maternity leave (though these reimbursements may be taxed come tax season). Some employers are doing both!
The Dave Thomas Foundation (yes, the Wendy’s Dave Thomas) is a great advocate for adoption and foster care. Their website includes a list of the best adoption-friendly workplaces, as well as a toolkit to help your employer understand the value of providing adoption benefits. The site has lots of other valuable resources, so check it out. Then, donate your $1, if you haven’t already, to make this adoption process a bit easier for the Hill family.