BEFORE THE BABY ARRIVES
Know the facts:
- Your maternity leave will be referred to as “short-term disability.” This came as a surprise to us as being pregnant seems hardly like a disability — just passing along.
- The law guarantees you very little. At this point, the only thing you MAY be guaranteed by law is 12 weeks of UNPAID, job protected leave — and that’s ONLY if you work for a company with 50+ employees that must adhere to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). That’s right, unpaid leave — maybe — making the United States the only developed nation not to provide paid leave. In 2015 (yes, you read that right), President Obama instructed Federal agencies to pay employees six weeks maternity leave. (Prior to this they used accrued sick leave.) Deep breaths — there are companies out there with amazing maternity benefits, and we are compiling data on them here. There are also a few states that offer paid bonding time with your baby (see more below).
- FMLA protects your job, benefits and salary for 12 weeks. Some companies will protect your job longer, or offer you a similar position after six months, etc. You’ll find all of this information in your company’s maternity leave / short-term disability paperwork. (see below).
There may be room for negotiating more time. Ask friends and colleagues, what they asked for, how the company worked with them (the average U.S. maternity leave is 10 weeks). You’ll likely be able to max out your paid vacation and sick time as well.
What should you do if you are the first employee at your office to ever have a baby? We suggest that you collect facts and data on what companies like yours are doing for pregnant employees, then present your findings in a conversation with your HR contact or manager.
- Be sure to read and reference this opinion piece by YouTube CEO and early Google employee Susan Wocjicki who has five children and was the first woman at Google to take maternity leave. Her take? Paid Maternity Leave Is Good For Business, and there are some great data points in here that could assist you in making a case to your employer.
- The data in our company profiles may help — some are quite generous and also offer valuable perks such as stipends for ordering food or help with the laundry (there’s a lot of it!).
When should you tell your employer you are pregnant? When’s the right time? This is completely personal and up to you. Plenty of moms we know wait until they are showing, others share the news earlier. Probably best not to wait as long as Katherine Heigl in “Knocked Up.”
But, as soon as you have shared the news, we recommend that you start working with your employer on what it might be like when you return as a mom.
Who will do your job while you are out? If your company is willing to hire someone during the time you are out, we encourage you to post the position in our Maternityship listings category. Bringing in someone new for a contracted period of time is a great way to ensure that your job is handled well while you are out, and that the person will leave when you return!
Pay attention to the paperwork. If you work for a big company, your Human Resources group likely has a packet for pregnant mothers, which you’ll need to request. If you live in California, New Jersey or Rhode Island, these states offer paid FMLA, and some states extend the amount of unpaid protection (see details here). California also offers paid bonding leave (6 weeks at a percentage of your salary). Make sure you gather all the relevant state paperwork (your HR contact or OB can help you with this).
The paperwork generally requires a doctor’s signature and your managers signature. They’ll ask you when you think you will return to work, and outline the parameters for holding your position. Under FMLA, they must hold your position for you for 12 weeks.
Tell your spouse or partner to ask about paternity or newborn leave at their company. Some employers offer paid leave for partners and spouses.
POST BABY’S ARRIVAL
How connected should you stay to your work while you are out? There’s no right or wrong here, but the time goes quickly. I spent the first several weeks of mine glued to my BlackBerry (this makes me sound old : ) ) wondering how on earth work was surviving without me — and how I would survive without it. It was a big shift in my everyday world. But we both survived and soon I put the BlackBerry down. That said, I know plenty of moms who worked much of their maternity leaves from home while bouncing the new baby. One brought her newborn to speak with us our SXSW session. It’s different for everyone!
In most cases, work expects you to take the time away. So, ENJOY IT! Sometimes I wish I could hit rewind and do them again. Here are 25 activities to try with your baby while on maternity leave from our friends at RookieMoms.
Thinking through back-to-work plans:
- Be clear on the timing of your return. If you plan to return to work full time, be clear with your employer on when you will return so they can prepare, too.
- Coordinate your childcare. You will want to have this buttoned up and be comfortable with the situation when you start back. Lock in care well in advance of your return-to-work date, and start testing how it’s going to go several weeks in advance. This is good for both you and the baby!
- Read your paperwork carefully, especially if you may want to extend your maternity leave or ramp back in slowly. There may be details in the paperwork (sometimes found under illogical headings) that discusses options to return part time for an extended piece of your maternity leave.
- If you would like to negotiate a reduced work schedule or the ability to work virtually a day or two, put yourself in your employer’s shoes and build a “business case” for the new setup. How will it work? How will you still be productive? Are there numbers you can tie to your pitch? Where will you be flexible with their needs? They’ve trained and invested in you — it’s likely in their best interest to keep you — but you will need to build the story and be persuasive. Here’s how one mom did it.
- Tell work close to your return-to-work date if you don’t plan to return. Going back to work post baby is often a very challenging moment for most moms, even the second or third time around. Many moms recommend going back to work and giving it some time to all work out. It usually does! But, sometimes change is good or it’s the right thing for you, your child or your family. If you go this route we encourage you to find ways to keep up with your industry while you are out or search flexible jobs that may provide a better family fit. If you think you want to negotiate a reduced workload, here are some tips on how to do this.
IF YOU ARE SUPER ORGANIZED
… and planning ahead by reading this before you are pregnant, think about who you are working for and how they will support you while pregnant if you need or want this. Venture capitalist Juliet de Baubigny advises: “Look for people and places that will support you, and don’t wait until you’re pregnant. Can you call in to a meeting? Will the CEO mind if your phone rings during a face-to-face (we all try to avoid this, but it will happen)? What are the maternity policies like?” Be sure to visit our company profiles for information on what family friendly benefits some companies offer.
Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to learn from other moms how they manage this transition, and much more.
Additional Resources we Love:
Slidelane: rediscover your neighborhood as a parent
weeSpring: find the best baby products recommended by your friends
MommaStrong: get fit post baby
UrbanSitter: find babysitters
RookieMoms: a real mom’s guide to the first year of motherhood
MomsRising.org: The latest on maternity leave
Any other tips or resources we should add to this list?
Please note we are not attorneys and this is not an exhaustive list, just a guide.
Updated October 2014.