There’s so much to think about when a baby is on the way, here’s a cheat sheet on how to prepare for maternity leave… and beyond.
> Preparation: It’s good to mentally prepare for the fact that your maternity leave will be referred to as “short-term disability,” and that the only thing you are guaranteed by law is 12 weeks of unpaid leave — and that’s only if you work for a company with 50+ employees that must adhere to the Family Medical Leave Act. That’s right, unpaid leave, making the United States the only developed nation not to provide paid leave.
If you work for a company that offers paid maternity leave (usually six weeks but, for example, Google offers five months of paid leave), consider yourself among the lucky. If you live in the state of California, consider yourself luckier (see below).
> Job protection: Under FMLA, your job, benefits and salary are protected 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 the paperwork (see below).
> Telling 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.”
> While you are out: 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. There’s often some fear of being replaced by someone else while you are out. By law, you cannot be fired while on maternity leave, so be assured of the security of your job. Brining 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!
> 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 or New Jersey, the state provides family leave (six weeks paid at a percentage of your salary) and in California, bonding leave (also 6 weeks at a percentage of your salary) — you’ll want to collect this paperwork as well.
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 12 weeks.
> Return to work plans: If you plan to return to work full time, be clear with your employer on when you plan to return. If your mind changes while on maternity leave, we recommend reading your maternity leave packet very carefully. There may be an option to return part-time for an extended part of your maternity leave, which may open up other opportunities for flexibility with the company post baby. They’ve trained and invested in you – it’s in their best interest to keep you. It’s your job to sell them on this. If you decide to leave entirely, let them know close to your return-to-work date so everyone can prepare. If you go this route, be sure to find ways to keep up with your industry.
> Child care: 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 a couple weeks in advance. This is good for both you and the baby! Learn more about costs and options.
Great details and rundown from BabyCenter: Maternity leave: The basics
Any other tips you think someone going on maternity – or paternity – leave should know?
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