Paid maternity leave remains a polarizing discussion in the United States. The 1993 Family Medical Leave Act stipulates that for one to have 12 weeks unpaid leave, you must have worked for more than 1,250 hours in a public agency, an elementary school or a company employing 50-plus people.
Research indicates that approximately 40 percent of employees don’t meet the set standards. The few that meet the requirement cannot afford to opt for unpaid leave. According to the same research conducted by the Department of Labor, about 12 percent of employees in the private sector enjoy paid maternity leave.
While most mothers take an average of six-weeks leave in the United States, other, developing countries, like Cuba and Mongolia, provide one-year paid leave. The situation is daunting for the 40 percent of American mothers who decide to take the unpaid leave. Some turn to friends and relatives for assistance, while others use crowdfunding sites.
Here are seven crucial tips you must know to help you manage maternity leave with ease without disrupting your career.
Have Pregnancy Rights at Your Fingertips
Before announcing the due date for maternity leave, it is prudent to familiarize yourself with all the legal requirements. While the Pregnancy Discrimination Act criminalizes unfair treatment of pregnant employees, it does not prevent employers from terminating a contract based on other factors such as low sales.
Study Your Employer’s Policy on Maternity Leave
It is wise to take time studying your company’s policy on maternity leave before approaching your boss. The human resources department comes in handy during this time if you have questions. While the FMLA gives employees 12 weeks’ unpaid leave upon satisfying the 1,250 hours, 12 months at work and working with a company with over 50 employees requirement, your employer recommends you to utilize paid sick leave or vacation.
It is not mandatory to spend all the 12 weeks, opening a window of opportunity for you to continue with your career and manage finances. Moreover, the Fair Labor Standards Act expects all employers to give breastfeeding mothers enough time and privacy to pump for an entire year.
Plan and Strategize Delegation of Duties
Before meeting your boss, you need to come up with a plan as to how your operations will continue in your absence. You will need to think strategically, focusing on candidates to delegate your duties to, their qualifications, and workload division.
If you identify skills that require training, come up with a plan to impart them with the required knowledge and skills. You may develop simple guides for them to follow. While conducting the training, keep in mind the amount of time you will be away and how many times you would like to be called upon to help.
Breaking the News Timely
In most cases, the appropriate time to inform your boss is at the end of the first trimester. At this time, the rumor mill hasn’t taken shape, and your pregnancy starts to say hello to the world. The appropriate timing makes you in charge of your reputation.
Be confident when breaking the news to your boss, present your plan, remain positive, and demonstrate your dedication to the company in retaining your job. All these, along with the right attitude, work miracles. You can show your interest in maintaining your position by discussing future projects, your role and initiatives.
Unfortunately, some employers may want to take advantage of your state and lay you off. For instance, if, after breaking the news, you start receiving poor performance reviews, previous documentation will defend you in court.
Schedule Contact Time With Your Team and Boss
The FMLA law safeguards you from being forced to work during your maternity leave. If you want to hang in the loop, you may schedule some time to communicate with your team or boss through conference calls. You can also employ “reply to all messages” to show you are part of the company.