HR: Employee Handbook
Leave Available for Adoption, Pregnancy and Childbirth
 

Leave Available for Adoption, Pregnancy and Childbirth

The Smithsonian does not have a formal "maternity/paternity" leave policy. However, leave for childbirth or adoption may be charged against accrued Annual and/or Sick Leave, as appropriate, or may be taken as Leave Without Pay (LWOP). Advance Leave is also available, but it should be noted that this will result in a debt that must be paid back through the employee's biweekly leave accruals. The Leave Transfer Program is a voluntary program which allows approved recipients to receive annual leave donations from other SAO employees within the same pay plan (Federal or Trust).

Sick Leave

A birth mother is entitled to use accrued sick leave for medical appointments, hospitalization, and her period of incapacitation before and/or after childbirth. Following delivery, the medical standard period of incapacity is generally 6 weeks. The birth mother must provide administratively acceptable medical certification of her period of incapacitation for the use of sick leave. This certification may be a letter from the mother's physician that documents the dates of incapacitation based upon the mother's medical condition and period of recovery following childbirth. Or, the physician may use the standard Department of Labor certification form, WH-380-E. If the medical certification is for a family member of the employee, the appropriate form is the standard Department of Labor certification form, WH-380-F.

A birth father may use a total of up to 12 weeks of accrued sick leave each year to accompany the mother to prenatal appointments, to be with her during hospitalization and/or to care for her during her recovery period. Medical certification from the mother's physician is required for use of sick leave for these purposes. The form that the physician should use is the standard Department of Labor certification form, WH-380-F (see link above).

Parents may not use Sick Leave to be absent form work to bond with or care for a healthy child. The use of Sick Leave is inappropriate unless the child has an illness or requires medical treatment.

Sick Leave for Adoption Purposes

Sick Leave may also be used for purposes related to the adoption of a child. Examples of adoption-related purposes may include, but are not limited to:

  • Appointments with adoption agencies, social workers, and attorneys;
  • Court proceedings;
  • Required travel;
  • Any periods of time the employee is ordered or required by the adoption agency or by the court to take time off from work to care for the adopted child; and
  • Any other activities necessary to allow the adoption to proceed.

There is no limitation on the amount of Sick Leave that may be used for adoption-related purposes, and the use of Sick Leave does not count toward the 104-hour (13-day) limit for family care and bereavement, or the overall limit of 12 weeks of Sick Leave each leave year for all family care purposes.

Sick Leave may not be used when an employee voluntarily chooses to be absent from work to bond with or care for a healthy adopted child. Annual leave may be used for this purpose.

Annual Leave

A mother may use accrued Annual Leave for pregnancy and childbirth, a father may use accrued Annual Leave to care for the mother during pregnancy and childbirth, and both parents may use accrued Annual Leave to be absent from work to bond with or care for a healthy child. The use of Annual Leave is subject to supervisory approval as to timing of annual leave.

Advance Annual and/or Sick Leave

SAO may advance employees Annual and/or Sick Leave for purposes related to childbirth - up to the amount of Annual Leave an employee would accrue during the remainder of the leave year. SAO may advance a maximum of 30 days of Sick Leave to a mother during the period of incapacitation for pregnancy and childbirth, or to care for a child who is ill. SAO may advance up to 30 days of Sick Leave to a father to care for the mother during the period of incapacitation for pregnancy and childbirth, or to care for a child who is ill.

At the discretion of the agency, up to 30 days of Sick Leave may be advanced to an employee, when required by the exigencies of the situation, for purposes related to the adoption of a child.

Supervisors may approve advance leave up to 40 hours. Supervisors must obtain appropriate medical documentation from the employee before approving Advance Sick Leave in any amount. Advances of leave of 40 hours or more must be requested by the employee via a completed Advance Leave Agreement form, and submitted via the employee's supervisor to the Director of Human Resources for approval.

Leave Without Pay (LWOP)/Family and Medical Leave (FMLA)

Employees may use LWOP, not under FMLA and as approved by supervisor, for absence from work due to pregnancy and childbirth, and to care for or bond with a healthy newborn.

Each parent is entitled to use a total of up to 12 weeks of Leave Without Pay (LWOP) under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for the birth of a child and care of the newborn. Medical certification requirements of FMLA must be met. An employee's entitlement to FMLA leave expires 12 months following the date of the child's birth. Subject to the supervisor's approval, FMLA leave may be used on an intermittent basis for absences related to cihldbirth and care of the newborn. An employee may elect to substitute Annual and/or Sick Leave for any or all of the LWOP used under the FMLA, consistent with the laws and regulations for using Annual and Sick Leave.

Medical certification of the mother's incapacity must be provided by the mother's attending physician on the applicable Department of Labor certification form and should be provided to the SAO Benefits Office no later than 15 days of the child's birth date.

Time charges in WebTA should reflect the appropriate use of Leave Without Pay, Sick Leave with FMLA or Annual Leave with FMLA. Questions relating to FMLA usage should be directed to the SAO Benefits Office, (617) 495-7371 or (617) 496-7605.

For further details about the Family and Medical Leave Act and its job and benefits protections, refer to the FMLA section of the Employee Handbook.

Leave Transfer Program - Donated Leave

When either the mother or father exhausts her or his sick and annual leave balances, upon application she or he may receive donated annual leave under SAO's Leave Transfer Program. This program allows other Federal or Trust Fund employees to donate their annual leave to assist another SAO employee within the same pay system (Federal or Trust) who has a personal or family medical emergency (including pregnancy and childbirth) and who has exhausted her/his own available paid leave. Voluntary annual leave donations may be used only for a medical emergency - e.g., the mother's period of incapacitation or the illness of a child - and may not be used to care for healthy newborn.

Information regarding becoming a Leave Transfer Program recipient may be found in the Leave section of the Employee Handbook or by contacting the SAO Benefits Office, 5-7371 or 6-7605.

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