And you work in the United States, one of the very few developed countries in the world without a national policy for paid maternity leave.
Your maternity leave will likely be a mixed bag of time off. Short-term disability leave, employer-paid vacation and sick leave, paid parental leave (uncommon), and unpaid leave may be part of your maternity leave mix–or not.
To make the most of it, you’ll want to surface the facts and plan ahead to develop a custom maternity leave for yourself.
And because bonding, breastfeeding and even behavior are influenced by the degree of mother-infant contact in the early months, I encourage you to explore creative options for extending your maternity leave which meet the needs of both you and your employer.
Consider these steps, then follow the link to Max Maternity Leave, a free planning resource for developing and negotiating a plan for extended leave.
Understand the basics of maternity leave in United States
Many new mothers-to-be are surprised to learn that there are no US laws requiring paid maternity leave. Family & Medical Leave Act allows for job protection and unpaid leave, and not everyone is eligible. These hard facts are all the more reason to develop your plans early and to prepare yourself to negotiate a maternity leave which meets your needs.
Know the number of weeks of leave to which you are entitled
By employer policy or law, or both, you may be entitled to a unpaid or paid leave that ranges from zero (yes, 0!) to 12 or more weeks.
Each woman’s maternity leave is different, requiring you to figure the number of weeks that matches your unique set of circumstances.
The length of your maternity leave depends on several variables including, the state you work in, the size of your employer, the tenure of your employment, your employer’s paid and unpaid leave policies, and your employer’s short-term disability policy.
Know the number of weeks of leave you want
Women sometimes forget that virtually everything is negotiable. Just because something is stated or in writing, doesn’t mean you can’t have something different. In this case, you can ask for more maternity leave than what the policy allows.
In fact, after following the strategies found in Max Maternity Leave, some women have received paid leave where there was no policy for it. Others received more time off than was customary. You too can make off-the-policy requests if you have a strategic plan to negotiate for them.
Be proactive by presenting a written maternity leave plan
Your manager is likely to have unspoken doubts about whether you will actually return to the job after your baby arrives, so a prepared maternity leave plan provides him or her with some assurance of your intention to return to work.
And while your manager is ultimately responsible for managing the reassignment of your work during your maternity leave, presenting a written proposal shows you are taking a collaborative approach.