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Mommy and Me Career: 4 Steps to Navigating Your Maternity Leave Policy

Expecting a new baby soon? Congratulations! The bonding period after a baby is born or placed in your home is unique and irreplaceable. Whether you’re gearing up for birth or adopting a child, you might be starting to think about how this new child will impact your career.

Perhaps you’re curious about your legal rights as a mom, navigating a new company’s policies, or even wondering if taking short-term disability is a possibility after your child arrives.

Understanding your company’s maternity leave policy is one more step in maneuvering the wonderful world of working motherhood.

4 Steps to Navigating Your Maternity Leave Policy

Among decorating the nursery, installing the car seat, and budgeting for your new baby, navigate your maternity leave policy with these four steps:

  • Step 1: Understand your rights

  • Step 2: Find out your options

  • Step 3: Craft your plan

  • Step 4: Talk to your boss

1. Understand Your Rights

As you may have already discovered, our country and our fast-paced modern world don’t always make it easy for parents to balance their careers and families. So while our nation’s policies could be a little more generous (the vast majority of us would like paid maternity leave), there are bare minimums that every employer should be held accountable to.

FMLA for Maternity Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that requires certain eligible employees with 12 (or fewer) weeks of unpaid parental leave per year for family and medical reasons. FMLA was created for:

  • Parents after birth, adoption, or foster care placement

  • Individuals facing serious medical conditions.

  • Individuals caring for immediate family members with serious medical conditions.

To be eligible for FMLA, employees must:

  • Work for a covered employer—certain public employers and private employers with 50 or more employees.

  • Have worked for the employer for at least 12 consecutive or nonconsecutive months.

  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours during the year immediately preceding the leave.

Under the FMLA, employees’ jobs are protected while they are out on leave. They are entitled to the same or equivalent job, the same pay, and benefits they had before they started their leave. Employers are required to continue the employee’s health care coverage while they are on leave as well, as long as the employee continues to pay their premiums.

Employees are eligible for one FMLA leave per 12-month period. When possible, the employee must give their employer 30 days' notice before they plan on starting their leave.

Pregnancy Discrimination

While we’re on the subject of your rights, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibits an employer from discriminating against women in the workplace or during the job application process on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes.

Pregnant women are also allowed reasonable accommodations, such as a modification to their schedule or duties. And under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers must allow accommodations—time and a private space (that’s not a bathroom)—to pump their breast milk.

2. Find Out Your Options

If you’re not ready to share your exciting news quite yet, there are plenty of ways to find out your company’s maternity leave policy so you can start planning. Try:

  • Looking for internal documents in your employee handbook

  • Checking your employee portal online.

  • Asking a trusted colleague who has recently gone on maternity leave.

  • Booking an appointment with your Human Resources department.

Paid Maternity Leave

Unfortunately, the United States falls short of taking care of new parents compared to other countries, with approximately 23% of workers in private industries having access to paid maternity leave. If you live in one of the 11 states that offer paid maternity leave, you may be eligible for some amount of paid leave. There’s also a major discrepancy in paid leave options between federal and private employees.

Short-Term Disability (STD) Insurance

STD insurance can provide income replacement (approximately 60%) when you’re unable to work due to an injury or an illness, and thankfully, this can include pregnancy and childbirth!

It’s important to keep in mind that STD insurance will most likely not cover your entire income, just a portion. And most importantly, there is typically a waiting period between purchasing STD insurance and the payout of benefits—this means you most likely need to purchase STD insurance before becoming pregnant.

If you currently have STD insurance, check your policy for specific terms and if you’re not pregnant yet, consider STD insurance as part of your maternity leave plan.

FMLA vs Short Term Disability

It’s important to note that while FMLA will protect your job reinstatement and benefits while you’re on maternity leave, short-term disability does not. STD is a type of insurance, allowing you to receive a portion of your paycheck while you’re away and FMLA is a law, protecting your job.

3. Craft Your Plan

Once you know all of your options, it’s time to create the best maternity leave plan for you and your family!

Deciding how long to take for your maternity leave depends on several factors including your:

  • Available options

  • Amount of savings you have to cover any income disruptions

  • Your partner’s availability, and

  • Your personality

Some women may feel the itch to return to work sooner than they thought and others may want to take every possible day of leave that they possibly can. And some are simply bound to their need for an income and can only take a short amount of time.

Consider your desires against your financial reality and craft your personalized maternity leave plan.

4. Talk to Your Boss

When you’re finally ready to share your big news, schedule a meeting with your boss. You might be surprised to find out that you can negotiate your maternity leave. Just because the HR documents say one thing, doesn’t mean your boss won’t be willing to work with you and be flexible.

Present your maternity leave plan and ask about possible flexibility, work-from-home options, or even flexible schedules during your transition period from maternity leave to return to work. If possible, give your boss as much notice as possible so they can plan for your workload and projects.

Once you’ve talked to your boss, make sure you understand your company’s maternity leave application process and note any important deadlines on your calendar. Your company may also require notes from your doctor or adoption agency to have on file.


Align Your Money and Career Decisions with AncHER Co.

Navigating your maternity leave rights, policies, and insurance, is one of the multiple decisions you’ll need to make as you continuously align your money and career decisions. Integrating your family life with your money and career requires constant focus and reevaluation of your priorities.

You may craft a fool-proof maternity leave plan only to have your childcare options change, your heart feel more pulled toward your home, or even experience feelings of guilt and confusion.

Life throwing us curveballs is about the only thing we can count on. That’s why I became a money and career coach for millennial women. We’re up against challenging expectations and impossible standards, while left to navigate it alone. Fortunately, you don’t have to be alone any longer, book a discovery call with me and let’s chat!

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