Here you’ll find tips to help you prepare for maternity leave.
Eight hours of sleep is impossible, work needs to get done even while your baby does aerobics on your bladder, your patience is as thin as a sheet of paper and now you have to figure out maternity leave.
I get it.
Everyone tells us to prepare for birth (important) yet no one bothers to share the benefits of preparing for life after birth (equally important).
Here is what you can do to prepare for maternity leave efficiently.
STEP1. LEARN ABOUT THE DIFFERENT TIERS OF MATERNITY LEAVE
FEDERAL MATERNITY LEAVE
FMLA is the acronym for The Family Medical Leave Act: This act ensures that new parents/employees who work for employers with more than 50 employees, with a minimum of one year and 1250 hours on the job can take off up to 12 weeks off, to care for their newborn.
This seems like a decent offering however it’s not available to every new mom. You must qualify for FMLA. If you don’t know if you do, check out this document.
If you do qualify for FMLA, your job is protected within the guidelines of the law but your leave may be unpaid. The Federal FMLA does not require your employer to continue paying you.
What about health benefits?
The FMLA (if you qualify) requires that your employer continues to pay your health insurance the same as if you were working.
IMPORTANT: Make sure you know how your health insurance payments will be handled if you do not have sick time or vacation time to cover your leave.
Although my employer continued to pay for my insurance. I had to pay out-of-pocket for my premiums that were previously taken out of my paychecks to keep my insurance up-to-date.
STATE MATERNITY LEAVE
States have their own laws as it pertains to maternity leave. In my state of North Carolina leave is unpaid but there are currently 3 states that offer paid leave: California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island; New York will begin in 2018. Each state has different requirements for using this leave.
EMPLOYER’S MATERNITY LEAVE
Employers have their own maternity leave policies.
My employer basically had policies that adhered to the federal FMLA; however, employers have the option to offer more than the minimum federal and state requirements for maternity leave.
Often this information AND the accompanying paperwork requirements are readily available. A meeting with a human resources representative can be helpful too.
Important: If you do take maternity leave and end up separating from your position (switching jobs or quitting) during this time or even shortly after, it’s possible that your employer’s policy requires repayment of benefits. This mom who switched jobs during maternity leave was asked to repay more than $2000 in benefits.
STEP 2: MEET WITH YOUR BOSS
This may be a no-brainer but even if your supervisor is aware you are pregnant, sit down and have a quick meeting to talk about the upcoming changes in your work availability. If a meeting isn’t ideal for your situation consider writing a maternity leave letter that outlines specific details and dates.
If you are a good worker (and you are ;-)) your supervisor will hopefully want to help you make the transition to maternity leave and back as easy as possible.
Having a productive conversation should answer these questions:
- How will your workload be covered while you are out?
- What things can you do before you leave to assist your work team?
- What paperwork needs to be completed by the supervisor and employee? When should it be submitted?
- Do you have plans to return to work after your leave?
STEP 3: COMPLETE THE PAPERWORK EARLY & MAKE COPIES
In the earlier steps, you learned what documents need to be completed. Get access to those documents and have them completed early on.
It was my experience that some of the documents require information that must be submitted by your prenatal care provider. If this the case for you too, avoid the stress of getting this done, without needing to rush your medical provider and before you are likely to go in labor.
Tip: Make copies of all the signed documents and email them to an email address you would have access to while away from work. CYA.
STEP 4: BEGIN SAVING FOR BABY EXPENSES AND HOUSEHOLD EXPENSES
If your situation is like mine, unpaid leave, consider doing The Pregnancy Savings Challenge to help save money for when you are out of work.
THE FUTURE OF MATERNITY LEAVE
While I was looking at how the U.S. handles maternity leave, I began looking at other nations and honestly, as a nation we fall wayyyy behind on having progressive maternity leave policies.
In fact, at a time when many women should be focused on bonding with baby, American women have to deal with large bills and returning to work before we are ready sometimes. Other women, in even less fortunate situations (with no insurance or qualifications for FMLA) have to face the possibility of joblessness.
It’s an issue that needs to be addressed on every level and it starts with education.
POSITIVE CHANGES HAPPENING IN THE WORKPLACE FOR WOMEN
Although the USA isn’t making fast changes on this issue, employers are beginning to make positive changes that show an interest in supporting family building.
In 2015 only 12% of workers at private companies had paid leave available to them but change is happening some private companies have recently updated their leave policies to impressive levels.
5 Maternity Leave Policies You Will Not Believe:
- Netflix offers unlimited paid leave for the first year, after the birth of a child!
- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offers 52 weeks of paid leave!
- Adobe offers 26 weeks of paid maternity leave!
- Microsoft offers 20 weeks of paid maternity leave!
- Amazon offers 20 weeks of paid leave for moms!
I’m hopeful that my little one, when she gets of age, will be in a working community that has policies that better reflect care and value for the work-family balance.
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HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE DEALING WITH MATERNITY LEAVE?