Wednesday, June 29, 2011

adoption in the workplace

I've been thinking a lot about how adoption is treated in the workplace. Obviously there is variability just as there is variability in how employers respond to finding out someone is pregnant. But my job title is changing classifications at my employer (not just me-everyone with my job title) and that affects the benefits we are entitled to. And that's got me thinking about the differences between benefits available to adoptive moms and benefits available to biological parents.

I should start out by saying that my employer does offer some adoption benefits. They will reimburse some qualified adoption expenses after finalization. And most of their policies are explicit about treating adoption and giving birth equally. So they are trying. But when you look at the details, there are some structural differences that make it harder for adoptive parents.

For example, because of the change in my classification, I am losing 20 days of paid parental leave. This is a big blow, obviously. I can take unpaid leave, but 4 weeks of pay is nice a chunk of change that it would be great to have. The unpaid leave is basically FMLA leave and it adheres to those rules. That's a federal law that allows up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for family or medical reasons, for my international readers. The loss in paid parental leave applies to both birth and adoption but women who give birth have more options for getting other forms of paid leave. If I was pregnant and giving birth to a child, I could use any accrued sick days since that counts as a medical condition for myself. But since we are adopting, I can't use any sick days to care for a newborn child.

Likewise with disability insurance. While I disagree with the idea that being pregnant or having recently given birth makes someone disabled, the fact is you can claim short term disability benefits if you are pregnant or have recently given birth. Not so if you are adopting.

So I don't have any options for getting a paid leave. Other than using any vacation days I have, but since we are not allowed to carry over vacation days from one to the next, there's not that many available to use. And since we can't use vacation days that we haven't yet accrued, if we get a placement in January, we would be completely screwed b/c I would not have had time to accrue any vacation yet.


  1. That seems so unfair. I happen to think that the whole system in this country sees "maternity" leave in the wrong light. It shouldn't be a medical / disability benefit - it should be a family benefit for anyone who brings a child into the family - regardless of how. I hope you can come up with a way to figure this out! It seems unfair to change your grade / designation and to take away those benefits:(

  2. I have to use my vacation/sick as well. They will let me go up to 80hrs in the hole. But still, I'll be unpaid for about 4-6 weeks. That sucks!

    My husband actually gets 1 week paid leave for adoption!

  3. I found your blog on the ICLW July list. We are still going through the home study process, but I have run into some of these same frustrations. I just wrote a series of posts on adoption leave.

    I look forward to following along with your journey, and I wish you all the best!


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