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.

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. This opinion piece lays out the business case for paid leave well, 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.

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.

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).

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.


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 phone 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 both work and I survived, and soon I put the put 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 at 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 the leaves again so as to do them better — don’t let that happen to you.

Thinking through back-to-work plans:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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! If you think you want to negotiate a reduced workload, here are some tips on how to do this.
  6. Prepare. Prepare yourself and your baby as the return date nears.

Please note we are not attorneys and this is not an exhaustive list, just a guide.