As your pregnancy progresses and baby’s arrival nears the question of ‘what to do when you start maternity leave’ becomes more pressing.
It’s a time of physical and emotional upheaval that poses challenges.
Navigating through 12 weeks of job-protected leave while managing changes in your body understanding FMLA benefits and dealing with potential pregnancy concerns can be overwhelming.
Cultivating a flexible plan being well-versed in your rights and engaging in open communication with your HR department can alleviate some of the stress associated with this transition.
But what happens when the standard 12 weeks of paid parental leave conclude and you find yourself dealing with the multiple responsibilities of a new mother?
What To Expect On Maternity Leave
Taking maternity leave means dedicating time to adjust to the arrival of your little bundle of joy. It provides an opportunity to bond with your newborn recover physically and establish new responsibilities at home.
Duration of maternity leave varies sick leave vacation time and short-term disability are often combined to extend the time off. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave time ensuring job security and continuity of benefits.
Expect changes in your routine as you adapt to your baby’s needs. While it can be emotionally and physically demanding support systems and clear communication can alleviate stress.
It is crucial to be familiar with your company’s leave policies and state family leave mandates. Changes to benefits and premiums during leave may occur it’s essential to consult HR about the details.
Planning Your Maternity Leave
To avoid financial challenges and other stressors a detailed maternity leave plan is of essence. This involves familiarizing yourself with your rights and the company’s policies.
It’s usually wise to start your leave a month or a week before your due date making sure your job demands and postpartum recovery are well catered for.
To ensure work continuity during your absence be sure to communicate your plans with your boss co-workers and clients. Alternatively you could appoint a temporary employee or break down responsibilities among co-workers.
A good leave plan also covers home responsibilities. A support system and scheduling visitors can be highly beneficial in this period.
Moreover if unable to afford a long leave consider expense reduction side hustles or sick pay pools.
Embrace flexibility as every pregnancy is different unforeseen complications may warrant changes in the plan.
Maternity Leave Benefits And Rights
In the U.S. maternity leave is governed under federal law mainly the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This law provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave for certain employees.
This leave can be used for various reasons including childbirth adoption and to care for a new baby. Additionally pregnant employees may use the FMLA leave if they are unable to work due to pregnancy-related complications before childbirth.
Eligibility for FMLA leave requires the employee to have been employed with the company for at least 12 months and worked 1250 hours in the past year. The act applies mainly to companies with 50 or more employees.
Some states have additional laws for maternity leave often providing paid leave. California New Jersey Rhode Island and New York give employees a certain percentage of their regular pay during maternity leave.
These programs are funded through payroll taxes.
Several employers supplement the Family and Medical Leave Act with their own company policies such as paid leave which could be through vacation time PTO or short-term disability.
Preparing For Maternity Leave
Start preparing for maternity leave as soon as you know you’re expecting. Check your company’s maternity leave policy by talking to your HR representative or going through the employee handbook.
Review the Family and Medical Leave Act and any state maternity leave laws applicable to you. Include a conversation with your manager about how you expect your role to be handled in your absence.
During this talk be sure to cover your duties projects and any expertise-related functions you perform.
Keep in mind that federal and state laws along with employer policies require you to report your leave in advance in order to access the benefits of maternity leave. The FMLA for example requires you to give 30 days’ notice if possible.
Once you’ve gathered necessary details create a specific maternity leave plan which details the start of your leave return date and how work will be managed during this duration. Inform your supervisor about this plan and make sure to involve your HR department.
Returning to Work After Maternity Leave
Returning to work after 12 weeks of job-protected leave or less depending on your maternity leave policy demands careful preparation. You have been away bonding with your newborn and adjusting to your new role as a parent.
Now transitioning back to the workplace can feel overwhelming.
Start with a solid plan to ease into your original job keeping your HR representative and immediate boss informed about your expected start date and any changes that may affect your immediate return. Communication is key here.
Many companies offer certain benefits under the FMLA benefits guidelines that you can make useful use of. For instance under the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act working mothers are entitled to breaks to breastfeed or express milk.
Confirm the availability of a private space for this at your workplace.
You might also want to approach your HR department about the possibility of a flexible plan for the first few weeks. A slow start perhaps some days working from home can be a great way to ease the transition and reduce anxiety.
Consider your baby’s care during your work hours. Secure a quality child care provider well ahead of your return.
If family support or career caregivers aren’t options look for reputable child care providers in your locality.
The transition period may come with unexpected emotions and challenges. Returning to work is a substantial change and it’s completely normal to feel mixed emotions.
Seek support from your partner coworkers friends or a counselor if you need it.
Last remember to plan breastfeeding breaks and me-time in your schedule. Your physical and emotional recovery are still ongoing processes and taking care of yourself is crucial to handling the dual responsibilities of career and child care.