Going on maternity or paternity leave is a great way to start your journey into parenthood. During this time, you’ll be able to bond with your family while recovering from childbirth. However, before you take this extended time off from work, you’ll need to perform a few critical tasks. Then, you’ll be well on your way to having a wonderful maternity or paternity leave.
1. Know your rights.
Federal Law, applicable state regulations, and company policies dictate your maternity and paternity leave rights. Understanding these laws and policies will help you communicate to your employer what you expect from your leave.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives American workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for a newborn child. The law also allows this time for other specific family and medical events. For you to receive time off under the FMLA, your employer must qualify as a covered employer – which includes having at least 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius of the worksite – and you must have worked at least 1,250 hours during a 12-month period for your employer.
Some states have adopted laws which expand the legal protections offered under the FMLA. Further, your company’s maternity and paternity leave policies cannot violate your protections under the FMLA or state law. If the company policies differ from those laws, they must be more generous to workers.
Contact your human resources department to determine how the FMLA, state laws, and company policies apply to you. Do this as early as possible, since there will likely be some paperwork you’ll need to complete in order to take the leave.
2. Make sure you’ll be covered at work.
The daily grind of the office isn’t going to stop just because you’re away. In conjunction with your manager, put together a plan that works for both you and the company. Discuss things like when you will return to work and how your responsibilities will be covered.
Also, will you be checking in with the office while you’re on leave? It’s perfectly fine to stay in touch with your co-workers and to update them on your progress. However, be careful of creating the expectation that you will work while on leave.
3. Research your childcare options.
This will save you from having to figure out during your postpartum stage what you will do about childcare. You might have a family member care for your child in your (or their) home. Or, you may choose to go with an established childcare facility. This is a major decision – and by deciding early, you will have removed a significant responsibility from your to-do list.
4. Plan for your new expenses.
Kids aren’t cheap. Right off the bat, you’ll have hospital bills and increasing health insurance premiums. You can estimate these costs well in advance. Your health insurance company can tell you the average out-of-pocket cost for a childbirth-related hospital stay in your geographical area and the cost to add your new baby to your policy.
5. Prepare to disconnect from work.
Maternity or paternity leave is going to be a welcomed but huge disruption to your normal schedule. Though the baby will likely throw off your sleep pattern, you will get to spend weeks of uninterrupted time caring for and bonding with him or her. Before he or she enters the world, mentally prepare yourself to put work on the back burner. Doing so may not be easy, but remember, your projects, tasks, and assignments will be there for you when you return to work.