You’re having a baby? Congratulations! Although the Guild contract doesn’t address maternity or parenting leave, we can provide a few tips and resources so you’re ahead of the stork.
(October 3, 2013)
|Pregnancy and Parenting Leave and Benefits
The laws governing leave rights and benefits can seem like a head-spinning collection of acronyms -- FMLA, CFRA, PDL, SDI and PFL.
Generally speaking, there are overlapping state and federal laws regarding pregnancy and parenting leave. Under California law, female employees can take up to four months of pregnancy disability leave under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), followed by three months of family medical leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). Read more
Having a baby is great news, but for writers on staff in the middle of a season, it can also be fraught with anxiety and concern over pregnancy and parenting leave. Although the WGA contract doesn’t address leave, per se, most writers – both mothers and fathers – have the right to take leave under federal and state law. What the Guild does advise writers to do is talk to their showrunners and producers, or consult their agents and attorneys, to work out leave issues before the baby arrives.
Revenge writer Sallie Patrick, due with her second child in January, says her series’ showrunner has been accommodating and supportive. Patrick plans to take four weeks off after the baby is born and then decide if she needs additional time. “I’ll see what I can handle,” she says. “If full-time is too much, perhaps I’ll work part-time for a bit.”
The advice for prospective dads who would like to take parenting leave is the same as it is for their partners: talk to your showrunner or executive producer. Breen Frazier, a writer on Criminal Minds for six seasons, took about six weeks of leave several years ago after his son was born. With the help of his showrunners, Frazier worked out an arrangement whereby he wrote one of the season’s earliest scripts and then wasn’t up to write again until episode 18. “I had a long break between writing assignments that allowed me to take the time off,” says Frazier, adding that because Criminal Minds is a procedural, writers tend to have more autonomy than they would on a serialized show. “Our primary responsibility is that we meet our own self-imposed deadlines. . . so if you know you have a new baby coming you can work with the staff and figure it out together.”
Frazier’s suggestion to writers (male and female) who are in a family way – broach the issue as soon as possible. “The earlier you have the conversation the better. What every showrunner needs is time to divide resources appropriately. The more time they have, the more they know in advance, the better decisions they can make.”
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