By Jessica Palliardi
I work as a teacher in an affluent district here in central Connecticut. The way my school district handles maternity leave is the female employee must use all of her sick time during maternity leave. If she runs out of sick time before the allowed 6 or 8 weeks is up (depending on vaginal vs. cesarean delivery), she does not get paid for those remaining days/weeks. In addition, when the woman returns to work, she has zero sick days for the remainder of the year since all earned sick time is used during maternity leave.
I am currently pregnant with my 2nd child and will be giving birth next week via a scheduled c-section. Because I had chronic, debilitating nausea and vomiting with this pregnancy for over 5 months, I used a lot of my sick days during the last school year. Therefore, I do not have much sick time left to use for my upcoming maternity leave. For most of my maternity leave, I will not be receiving paychecks.
In addition to this causing a major reduction in my family’s household income, I also will have to make the full monthly payments for my family’s health insurance and my contribution to the state teacher’s retirement fund. Normally, these expenses are taken from my paycheck. My school district ceases paying these expenses when an employee goes on “unpaid status.” My upcoming maternity leave is definitely causing some financial stress in my household. I contemplated taking the minimum 8 weeks, but after my husband and I talked about all of the variables, we decided that because this will be our last pregnancy/baby, it is more important for me to spend time with the baby than rush back to work when I will likely not be fully healed nor ready to be on my feet for 7 hours a day teaching. I have the rest of my career for that. With my first child (also delivered via c-section), I was not fully healed after 8 weeks and was definitely not ready to resume full-time work.
When I return to work in early December, I will have a 3 month-old, a 4 year-old, zero sick time, and we’ll be entering the cold/flu season. This is ethically wrong and needs to be changed.
Homepage image credit to Tatiana Vdb