Members often ask about maternity & paternity leave. While UFEA has successfully bargained for a number of leave options for members, we have not yet successfully persuaded Unit 5 to offer separate maternity & paternity leave.
In fact, most employers in the US still don’t offer paid maternity and paternity leave, but rather allow employees to use other accumulated leave (especially sick leave) for the purposes of birth and adoption. UFEA continues to advocate for paid family leave and we’re watching closely the efforts to institute it nationally. We are also encouraged that IEA was successful this past year getting new legislation passed in Illinois which provides for more flexibility for parents using their accumulated sick leave for birth and adoption. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions — and answers — related to maternity and paternity leave.
Do we have maternity/paternity leave in our contract?
If we don’t have maternity/paternity leave, what leave allows me to be gone for birth or adoption?
Depending on the circumstances, most leave related to birth or adoption is covered by the bargaining unit member’s own accumulated sick leave (10.1.1), often in combination with the sick leave bank (10.1.1a) and FMLA. Some members request to take longer unpaid leave (up to two years) utilizing Parental Leave (10.2.4).
I may run out of my own accumulated sick leave while out on maternity leave. What are my options?
UFEA has negotiated a sick leave bank (10.1.1a) to benefit bargaining unit members. The sick leave bank is available for bargaining unit members who exhaust their own accumulated sick leave and are absent for more than 3 consecutive days, but need to be gone for their own illness or disability (with documentation provided by a doctor). Each bargaining unit member is provided an opportunity at the start of each school to donate one of their sick leave days for the year to the sick leave bank. Donating a day to the bank gives that bargaining unit member access to the bank and the ability to apply to use days from it (up to 30 days at any one time).
If a bargaining unit member opts not to donate a day to the sick leave bank, they would not have access to the bank in these situations and the remaining time they need to be absent would be unpaid.
What are my requirements while I’m out on leave? Do I have to attend meetings or do other work?
A bargaining unit member out on approved leave, including sick leave or related leaves for the purposes of birth or adoption, is only responsible for notifying the district of the absence (using the appropriate platform or software in place for such purposes at the time). All bargaining unit members are expected to have substitute plans in place for short, intermittent absences, and if a bargaining unit member is absent for more than three days, there should be general plans ready for a substitute which include the district’s curriculum map and any relevant district created or provided materials. There is no expectation a bargaining unit member attend meetings or complete work when they’re out on sick leave, even when used for maternity/paternity purposes.
How long do I get to take off for maternity & paternity/for birth or adoption?
Generally a bargaining unit member may be absent for up to 12 weeks per year per qualifying event. How much of that time is paid can depend on the circumstances and the individual’s accumulated sick leave, however.
After a live birth, a doctor will provide the bargaining unit member with the amount of time they expect them to be unable to work and often will provide a date they expect the individual to be released to return to work. Doctors regularly recommend 6-8 weeks, depending on circumstances surrounding the birth. Those days can be covered by both the individual’s accumulated sick leave or the sick leave bank.
If a doctor provides documentation that an individual needs to be out of work for longer, the individual may continue to use their own accumulated sick leave or days from the sick leave bank. A bargaining unit member may desire to be home for longer following the birth of a child. If an individual wants to stay home for longer, but not for medical reasons, they may. A bargaining unit member’s own accumulated sick leave may be used for the purposes of birth, adoption or foster care placement for up to 30 days within 12 months of the child being born (for most women giving birth, those 30 days will occur in the weeks immediately following the birth for medical reasons), and in cases of adoption or foster care placement those days do not need to be consecutive. Individuals may also use FMLA leave for the remaining time, up to a total of 12 weeks per year. FMLA begins once the individual is out for a qualifying event and runs concurrently with their paid leave, such as sick leave. Once an individual’s own accumulated leave is exhausted, the remaining FMLA leave would be unpaid. Individuals may request unpaid Parental Leave (10.2.4) for up to 2 school years.
My baby was born over an extended break, when does my time off start?
Illinois recently passed IEA-backed legislation (HB0816) which allows educators to use up to 30 days of their own accumulated sick leave for birth, adoption, placement for adoption, or acceptance of a child in need of foster care. Those days must be used within 12 months of a child being born and are not dependent on the need to recover from childbirth (as was traditionally the case when using sick leave related to childbirth). In the case of adoption, placement for adoption, or acceptance of a child in need of foster care, those days do not need to be taken consecutively.
One group that may benefit from this change are those bargaining unit members who give birth over an extended break such as summer, winter or spring break. Those non-work days don’t count toward the time allowed for such purposes. So, for example, if an individual gives birth over the summer four weeks before school starts, they could still take the first 30 days of school off using their own sick leave (assuming they had enough), even if their doctor cleared them to come back medically during that time.
I used all my sick leave in the first semester and now my child is sick. What should I do?
Since sick leave bank days are only available for the bargaining unit member’s own illness or disability, those days would not be an option in this case. An individual who has no more sick leave accumulated but needs to be gone to take care of a sick child or member of their household could use personal leave (10.1.2), take days without pay, or apply for an unpaid leave of absence.
I used all my sick leave in the first semester and now I’m sick. What should I do?
Sick leave bank days are available for the bargaining unit member’s own illness or disability, so those days could be an option (as long as the individual is absent for more than 3 consecutive days, has donated to the sick leave bank that year, has documentation from a doctor, and has not exhausted their allotment from the sick leave bank for the year). An individual could also use personal leave (10.1.2), take days without pay, or apply for an unpaid leave of absence.
If I want to stay home longer than my doctor required, how do I do that?
Generally, a doctor will indicate an individual is cleared to return to work after child birth 6-8 weeks following the birth. If an individual has been cleared to return to work medically but desires to stay home for a longer period of time, they could explore a variety of unpaid leave options (10.2) UFEA has bargained for members.
What is the Parental Leave available in 10.2.4 of the contract?
The board may grant this negotiated leave for up to two school years in order for a bargaining unit members to be able to stay home with their child(ren). If a member is granted Parental Leave:
- they won’t advance on the salary schedule while on leave (unless they’ve worked at least 90 days or one semester in a school year)
- they may maintain membership in the group health insurance program by remitting in advance payments of all premiums due
- they must notify the school board in writing (email is sufficient) whether or not they request to return to their position (this request to return must be provided by February 1 for anyone on leave during the second semester)
- they will retain their tenure status while on leave
- they will be placed in an available position for which they’re qualified when returning from leave (unless they’re impacted by a RIF)
- they will remain an employee and may remain a member of UFEA by submitting dues directly to UFEA
How does the sick leave bank work?
The sick leave bank is a negotiated benefit UFEA has bargained to support members, allowing members to pool sick days together and make them available to other members who need additional sick leave. Bargaining unit members have an opportunity at the start of each school year to voluntarily transfer one (1) day of their accumulated sick leave to a sick leave bank (10.1.1a) — those individuals hired after the start of the school year are also given this opportunity within their first ten days of employment.
Bargaining unit members request sick leave bank days, which can only be used for the bargaining unit member’s own illness or disability, through Unit 5’s Human Resources department. Those requests, which must be accompanied by a doctor’s verification, are forwarded to the UFEA president, who approves or denies the request and forwards approved requests to the administration for approval.
Each bargaining unit member may be granted up to thirty (30) days from the sick leave bank at any one time. After exhausting those 30 day, up to 30 additional days (for a total of 60) may be requested in cases of catastrophic illness. A request for additional days must be accompanied by an updated physician’s note, and such additional days will be approved or denied by a committee consisting of the superintendent or designee and UFEA president or designee.
Why is FMLA not in our contract? Can’t I just take FMLA leave?
The Family and Medial Leave Act is a federal law which entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.
Unit 5 is a covered employer and is required to provide FMLA leave to eligible employees when they qualify.
As an employer, Unit 5 chooses (which the law allows) to run FMLA concurrent with other leaves. For example, if an individual is out on sick leave, which qualifies under FMLA, those FMLA days (up to 12 weeks) start when the sick leave days start. This allows an individual to be paid (using sick leave) while using FMLA leave (by law, FMLA is an unpaid leave).
For example, if an individual needed to be out for the full twelve weeks at one time for an FMLA-qualifying event, and they only had 6 weeks of accumulated sick leave to cover that time, the first 6 weeks would be paid by utilizing their accumulated sick leave and the remaining 6 weeks would be unpaid.
Do I still get paid during FMLA leave?
Maybe. As explained in the question above, FMLA runs concurrently with other leaves. As long as a bargaining unit member has paid leave available to run concurrent with the FMLA leave, they’ll be paid. When those paid days are exhausted, any remaining FMLA leave is unpaid.
Our contract is not fair for fathers. Why doesn’t my husband get to take sick days after I have a child?
Your husband can use sick days after you give birth! All bargaining unit members, regardless of gender, may use sick leave for the purposes of birth, adoption, placement for adoption or acceptance of a child in need of foster care.
A bargaining unit member whose spouse gives birth may use up to 30 days of their own accumulated sick leave within the first 12 months after birth to care for their newborn or the mother, or to spend time with the child.
Our contract is not fair for mothers. Women have to use all their sick time to have a baby and men don’t.
It is true that women who give birth may use more of their accumulated sick leave in order to give birth and recover medically after giving birth. But all bargaining unit members have the same sick leave benefits available to them. And, all bargaining unit members, regardless of gender, may use up to 30 days of their own accumulated sick leave for the purposes of birth, adoption, placement for adoption or acceptance of a child in need of foster care.
How does this apply to adoption or fostering a child?
A bargaining unit member in the process of adopting or fostering a child may use their own accumulated sick leave to cover absences related to preparing for an adoption placement, adopting the child, preparing for foster care placement, or caring for/spending time with/bonding with the child. This could include necessary meetings, court appearances, travel, etc. related to adoption or foster care placement.