The terms of a maternity leave policy can vary significantly depending on the laws in the area where a business operates as well as the business's own needs and culture. A typical maternity leave policy may include directives to pregnant women as to when they should inform their employer of their pregnancy, the duration of both paid and unpaid maternity leave, and paternity or adoption leave for employees who are not pregnant but who nonetheless anticipate welcoming a child into their home. Other components of a maternity leave policy may include the extension of employment benefits, particularly that of health insurance.
Not all countries require private businesses, or even government agencies, to provide maternity or parental leave to employees. In those countries that do not mandate maternity leave, a maternity leave policy may be established on a voluntary basis by companies that wish to provide some sort of accommodation to their employees. In countries such as the United States where the provision of maternity leave is not required of all companies, there may still be laws that require that some companies provide employees with a certain amount of unpaid leave in order to address personal circumstances that must be considered in the development of a maternity leave policy. Other legal considerations may include existing gender or disability discrimination laws. Anti-discrimination laws may prohibit an employer from developing a maternity leave policy that only grants childcare leave to women without offering similar opportunity for childcare leave to men.
A maternity leave policy may specify the number of weeks that a woman can be away from work due to giving birth. For example, a woman may be permitted under her maternity leave policy to take paid time off of work during the last weeks of her pregnancy as well as the postpartum period. Depending on her employment contract, which may be negotiated through a labor union, she may also be entitled to a certain amount of paid or unpaid time to engage in child care. Similarly, male employees whose wives or partners are expecting a baby may also be entitled to paid or unpaid time off of work. In addition, employees who plan to adopt a child may be allowed time from work so as to facilitate the adoption and spend time caring for their new child. These policies may also require employees to use part or all of their existing vacation or sick time while taking maternity, adoption, or paternity leave.