Planning Maternity Leave: Know Your Options to Make it Work for You
For expectant mothers who work, planning maternity leave for the first time can prompt many questions: How much time off can I take? What options do I have for paid leave? When should I tell my employer that I’ll need time off?
Every mom’s situation is different, so whether you work full-time, part-time or are self-employed, you might want to start considering your maternity leave options early, so you can plan to spend as much time as possible with your new baby.
Depending on your employer’s benefits, you may have a few choices when planning maternity leave. The American Pregnancy Association (APA) says vacation, personal days, sick leave, holiday time and short-term disability may be the different sources of time off available to you for maternity leave.
Check with your employer’s human resources department or benefits administrator to find out your company’s policy before the baby comes, says the APA. If you’re not eligible for disability, or are short on paid time off (PTO), you may have the option to take unpaid days off work for your maternity leave.
According to the Department of Labor (DOL), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave for family or medical reasons without losing their job or health insurance coverage. Under this law, employers must give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period for medical reasons, which include the birth of a child.
Depending on your company’s policy, your employer may require you to use PTO first to cover some of the FMLA leave period, says the DOL. In that case, your employer can count PTO toward the 12 weeks of FMLA time for the year, which can limit your total time off (including paid and unpaid) to three months.
Since every employer has different rules, it’s important to find out what your company’s policy so you can optimize your leave time.
The APA notes that FMLA leave is available to both parents, with a few exceptions:
- Should both parents work for the same company, the 12 weeks are split between the two.
- Companies with fewer than 50 employees are not required to follow FMLA.
- Employees who have been with the company for less than 12 months are not eligible.
- If the employee’s salary is in the top 10 percent of the company, he or she is not eligible.
FMLA leave can be used all at once or taken as needed throughout the year.
Options for Self-Employed Moms
Working for yourself may mean going without company benefits, but it does offer flexibility. According to Fast Company, you may want to work ahead and put in extra time before the baby arrives. You can also try to save at least three months of salary as well, the site adds. After the baby comes, Forbes suggests reaching out to friends or family for help so you can still do some work on the side.
Having kids, no matter what your working situation is, will always require financial preparation and flexibility. If you start planning maternity leave in advance, you can find out what is offered to you or what changes you may need to make to benefit you and your growing family.
Originally published on May 19, 2015.