Pregnancy is an exciting time, and if you're a working mom-to-be, chances are you're hoping to take some maternity leave to spend time with your new baby. Depending on the size of your company and its culture, maternity leave policies can vary quite a bit.
Before your due date arrives, you'll want to talk with your employer and your human resources representative to make sure all of your questions are answered. Arming yourself with the right questions will make preparing for maternity leave a little bit easier. Here are 10 things to be sure to ask your employer before you head home to bond with your new baby.
You'll want to make sure that all of your job tasks are handled in your absence. Your boss may plan to split your responsibilities between several people, so you'll want to find out who is doing what and make sure they have all the tools and information they need to cover you while you're out.
Also, it's a good idea to keep in touch with your coworkers periodically so you'll stay informed of the goings-on related to your job.
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the United States, companies with 50 or more employees must allow new parents to take up to three months of leave to be with their new baby [source: U.S. Department of Labor].
If you work for a smaller company, you'll want to clarify with your employer how long your job will be secure before heading out on maternity leave. It's probably a good idea to ask for something in writing, just to be on the safe side.
Different companies have different policies. See if you'll be receiving full or partial salary, if any. Companies aren't required by law to offer any sort of paid maternity leave, so even if you work for a large company, you may not be entitled to paid leave. While the FMLA guarantees leave time, it doesn't guarantee that you'll be paid.
It's important to know your rights before the big day arrives. Talk to someone at human resources and to other women in your office who have taken maternity leave to see if they have any tips.
This is something you'll want to try to square away before heading out for maternity leave, and definitely before the baby is born. Since health plans can vary between insurance companies and from state to state, this is an important issue that you'll want to meet with your human resources representative about. If your company doesn't have an HR department, you can contact your insurance provider directly.
Also, compare your plan with your spouse's or partner's before making any final decisions; his company might offer something better.
Some companies will allow you to piggyback sick days on top of your maternity leave to buy yourself another precious week or more at home with your new baby. If you have sick days remaining before or after your leave, you'll want to confirm with your employer that it's OK to combine short-term leave with sick time. Just be sure to leave yourself some emergency days in case you or your baby comes down with a bug in the coming months.
While you wouldn't be able to use long-term disability to extend maternity leave under normal circumstances, you'll want to know what your benefits are in case complications come up. It's always better to know your options in advance, so you'll have one less thing to worry about in the rare case that something stressful arises. Your health and the health of your child should always come first!
You'll want to talk to your boss and get in touch with your company's human resources department to make sure you fill out any necessary forms for your maternity leave. Depending on your company's policy, this could be just one or two documents or a whole stack of forms. It's important to have everything in writing so no complications arise that will stress you out during what should be wonderful time. Getting the paperwork out of the way long before your due date will be a load off your mind!
New dads often have rights, too, when a baby is on the way. Check to see what your spouse's company offers in terms of paid and unpaid leave. Paternity leave gives your hubby a chance to bond with the baby. If you're trying to put off paying for child care, paternity leave can also be a big help there. Some companies will work with you to allow you and your husband to take leave consecutively instead of at the same time.
If you're adopting, you should be able to get the same benefits as you would if you were carrying the child yourself; however, this can vary from company to company. The FMLA does cover adoptive parents as well, so if you work for a larger company, those benefits would still apply. Either way, you'll want to check in with your human resources representative to see what benefits your company offers for adoptive parents. Some large companies even offer financial assistance to help cover adoption costs, but you won't know unless you ask!
This depends a lot on your company's culture, but you might be surprised at how willing they are to work with you on your transition back to work. You might be able to come back part time at first, work flex hours or even telecommute for part of each week as you get adjusted after your maternity leave.
Also, stay in touch with your employer on a regular basis to keep them informed of your plans -- if you decide you don't want to go back to work, it's probably a good idea to let them know as soon as possible!
For more tips and information about maternity leave and working moms, check out the next page.
Are we in a golden age of paternity leave? Find out why this employee perk is becoming more common at HowStuffWorks Now.
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- Mattioli, Dana. "Maternity Test: The Dos and Don'ts of Taking Maternity Leave From Your Finance Job." Fins Finance. June 7, 2010. (Dec. 14, 2010)http://www.fins.com/Finance/Articles/SB124699448586307229/The-Dos-and-Don-ts-of-Taking-Maternity-Leave-From-Your-Finance-Job
- Ralston, Jeannie. "The State of Maternity Leave." Parenting. 2009. (Dec. 14, 2010)http://www.parenting.com/pregnancy/article/The-State-of-Maternity-Leave
- U.S. Department of Labor. "Fact Sheet #28B: FMLA leave for birth, bonding, or to care for a child with a serious health condition on the basis of an 'in loco parentis' relationship." July 2010. (Dec. 14, 2010)http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs28B.pdf
- U.S. Department of Labor. "Family and Medical Leave Act." (Dec. 14, 2010)http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/index.htm
- Young, Maria. "Your Maternity Leave Plan of Action." Parents. August 2010. (Dec. 15, 2010)http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-life/maternity-paternity-leave/your-maternity-leave-plan-of-action/