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What do I need to do before I go out on sick leave before the winter holidays?

Q: I am expecting a baby at Christmas and plan to go on leave with pay using accumulated sick leave. Will I be charged sick days for the winter holidays when school is closed? And can my Principal insist that I work up to the last day before the winter holiday and submit lesson plans while I am out?

A: Congratulations and best wishes for your health and your baby's! We've come a long way from the days when pregnant teachers were actually forced out of their jobs. Association litigation and lobbying helped teachers win leave for childbirth and application of paid sick leave for pregnancy-related disability.

You should first contact your local UniServ Director for help making a formal request for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA assures you 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of your child, and regulations under FMLA stipulate that weeks when employees are not expected to report to work because the employer's business activities have ceased do NOT count against an employee's entitlement to these 12 weeks of unpaid leave. So, the weeks that school closes for winter holidays are not counted in your 12 weeks of leave for childbirth.

Note that although FMLA requires that your employer continue to make contributions for your group health insurance coverage, it does not require that you receive paid leave. Depending on local policy, you may be able to substitute your accumulated paid sick leave for otherwise unpaid leave. An opinion from your physician that you are not able to report to work before and after delivery should allow you to use paid sick leave. But a healthy mother caring for a healthy baby may not be eligible for paid sick time. Teachers on leave for pregnancy or childbirth should not be charged sick days for the winter holidays unless that is the way teachers on leave for other medical reasons are treated. Your UniServ Director can help you review local sick leave policies. 

What about the curriculum for your classroom? Teachers are usually required to provide some lesson plans for substitutes. Review your district's requirements with your UniServ Director and consider what additional plans you can get ready before you leave school. You need time to recover from childbirth and care for a new baby, but you may return to your classroom and always want your students to succeed. Your UniServ Director can help you talk with school administrators to reach reasonable and professional decisions respecting your health, time off, and your interest in giving your students quality instruction.


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