How To Properly Prepare Yourself And Your Office For Your Maternity Leave

Congratulations parents to be! I just found out I’m expecting my second child, so you and I will be going on this journey together.

Becoming a parent changes you in ways so profound my words could never come close to adequately describing the epic life shift coming your way. It shifts your entire perspective on the world, what's important to you, what your goals in life are and how you want to spend your time. That said, be kind and patient with yourself and your support team. It’s an exciting, exhausting, challenging time!

As soon as possible, spend some time talking with your spouse about what it will mean to be a family and how you both see work fitting into your family dynamic. When you have thoroughly discussed your desires and expectations as a family, there are a few basic things you should know before sharing your exciting news with your boss.

Know your rights. If you’ve worked at a company in the United States for more than a year, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn or an adopted or foster child. These laws only apply to companies with 50 or more employees. Laws pertaining to maternity leave and disability also vary from state to state, so be sure to learn about your state’s law.

While you're researching, you'll also want to talk to someone in your human resources department. They will be able to answer questions about your company’s specific maternity leave policy, such as the amount of paid or unpaid leave you are entitled to, the length of time you can be away from your job and how to apply for benefits. Some companies allow for additional unpaid time off. This means they will hold your job until you return, but you won’t be paid for the additional time off.

After you've done your research and talked to the HR department, schedule a meeting to talk to your boss. If you intend to return to work, emphasize that you are committed to the organization. Be sure to ask for clear expectations from your boss so the two of you are on the same page when the big day arrives. You will want to get answers to questions like: should you continue to communicate with the team while you are away and who will do your work in your absence?

Elizabeth Malatestinic, senior lecturer in Human Resources Management at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, says the United States has a long way to go to erase pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

“A woman should know her legal rights, but also be prepared for the fact that her boss may not be as delighted with the news as she is. The more she can do to alleviate her manager's concerns, the more pleasant her daily work environment will be,” Malatestinic said. “Despite the law, each company reacts differently. Larger companies tend to be more accommodating, but smaller firms sometimes struggle with balancing the needs of their employees with their own concerns. In the best work situations, women can notify their employers early and partner with the company to ensure that all work goes on as usual during their absence. In companies that aren't as accommodating, it can be a difficult decision as to when to tell the boss.”

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