office expressions.

musings from my experience at the home/office.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


There is a reason I don't work in a human resources role. There is a reason I never pursued law school beyond purchasing LSAT books on a whim one summer, and never opened them. While I can be a very 'concrete sequential' person at time, I absolutely loathe legal-ease, financial terminology, and pretty much any technical speak that is created to cover a large company's behind and confuse the masses.

I thought I was in a good spot, because my organization just began providing a 'maternity leave benefit' for the first time in its 60+ year history. That's right, it's 2012, and this 'benefit' has only been around for about one year. Before then, it was up to the mom to cash out all of her sick and vacation paid time off, and if she wanted more time at home with her child, it was unpaid leave. Thanks to FMLA laws, moms weren't at risk of losing their position in the company or health benefits during these twelve weeks, but that's pretty much the silver lining of that cloud.

Now that I'm exploring my 'maternity leave benefits', I'm beginning to understand that not much has changed in that last year except this: I am eligible to collect 6 weeks of Short Term Disability Insurance, where I am paid 2/3 (pre-tax) of my regular pay check from a private company. Post-tax, my paycheck will look more like 55% of my normal rate. This is provided in place of taking un-paid leave.

First of all, it disturbs me that pregnancy and the birth of a child falls under a classification of 'disability'. I have tried to be open minded about this and accept the 'benefit' for what it is, but really, I would never call this situation a disability. It's a fairly misogynistic label and I'm not comfortable with it.

Second of all, I know I should be grateful that I can at least collect part of my paycheck from this 'benefit', but if it were a true maternity leave, I believe I should be able to collect 100% of my typical earnings. Why are my wages being garnished because I have a 'disability' and need to take a short term leave?

Thankfully, I have been able to max out my sick time accruals during my time werking from home, so I'm not concerned about tapping into that reserve of time once my disability benefit runs its course. I'll also return to accruing PTO and receive my full pay again.

As the sole income and benefits provider for our family, this entire process has been degrading and heart breaking at many times. I am feeling pressure to give up my precious baby's first weeks of life in exchange for being able to provide for our family more fully. I know I am in a privileged situation to even be complaining about this, but I just don't think that parading 'maternity leave' jargon around the office is acceptable in this situation, when really it feels more like a punishment to leave werk and bring life into the world. The very fact that it is labeled 'disability' speaks loud and clear to me.

I'll be thankful for the time off, and we'll figure out a way to make paychecks stretch during those six weeks, but the concept behind a short term disability leave masquerading as maternity leave still seems pretty bogus to me.

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