If I get a check during maternity/paternity leave does that mean it’s paid leave? Not necessarily.

Many of you probably know co-workers who received some income during their leave – but was that company paid leave or not? Most likely not. Often any incoming money during a maternity or paternity leave in the U.S. is due to sick time, vacation time and short-term disability insurance (STD) – none of which is actually considered paid leave.

While it is certainly better than no income at all during family leave, stitching together vacation and sick time with short-term disability and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can be incredibly confusing. For one thing, most STD benefits do not kick in for at least a week after childbirth, meaning many employees must use a week of vacation or sick time before receiving their STD benefit. On average the STD benefit for childbirth is 6 weeks, with 8 given for complications, and only pays about one half to two thirds of your salary. Your STD benefits and FMLA can run concurrently, but once the STD benefit is up, the rest of your leave may be unpaid or sick and vacation time. The Society for Human Resource Management has some helpful tips on how to use your STD and FMLA benefit at the same time and who might qualify for STD insurance.

Those employees without STD insurance benefits are often left to use vacation and sick days, which pays 100% of salary, but runs out quickly. Once those days are up parents must face the hard choice of continuing to take weeks of leave unpaid, potentially up to the 12 weeks provided for by the FMLA, or return to work full time. And anyone who has a child knows that they have to go to the doctor often in that first year of life, sick or well, which is hard to do when a parent has run out of sick time to take off for appointments.

Only 12 percent of American workers have access to paid leave in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so if you know a coworker who was paid during their maternity or paternity leave, don’t assume it was by the company. More than likely they used the time off due to them or short-term disability insurance, which helps families get by but hardly signals support for working families by an employer.

Did you have paid leave? Or did you use vacation time, short-term disability or unpaid time off? Leave an anonymous company review about how your company handled parental leave – so expecting co-workers aren’t surprised when they find out how what benefits they might or might not have. Help everyone get smart on leave.