Planning Maternity Leave

by Pregnancy.org Staff

Becoming a parent is one of the most monumental experiences in a person's life. Unfortunately, children do not come with foolproof instructions! Combining a career and family life presents special challenges. The real advantage to planning maternity leave is having the time to do it right. As early as possible, find out your company's policies. All contractual rights, including pension, holiday entitlement, medical benefits, etc. are accrued during maternity leave although this may not be the case if you take extended maternity leave.

Review your Company's Policy

Before you announce your pregnancy, try to review your company's policy. Ask your Human Resources Department, or check you benefits handbook for a written copy.

  • How will your leave be paid?
  • Are you allowed to add accumulated sick, holiday or personal days?
  • Does the leave period coincide with your next performance review?
  • Do any other company programmes affect the kind of leave you take?
  • Are there any flexible work arrangements available, for instance, that might allow a phased in return or an easier transition back to work?

Planning your Return to Work

While it's impossible to be exact about when your child will arrive and when you'll be physically and emotionally ready to come back to work, you might want to share approximate return dates with your employer (but rmember you are not obliged to do so). Do a little thinking before you decide how long you'd like your leave to be. Here are some considerations:

  • Your personal finances - What can you afford beyond the time that will be paid by your employer? Which benefits are you entitled to once the baby is born?
  • A partner or spouse - Some parents find that when both partners take leave it can shorten each person's time away from work and give the baby a chance to bond with both parents. If your partner does take leave will your partner be able to take paternity leave?
  • The demands of your job - You may be involved in a long-term project, or have a promotion you are working towards that might affect your departure or return date.

It's worth taking into account the experience of friends and colleagues who have recently taken maternity leave. It can help you to be more realistic about your situation. If you are working towards a promotion for instance, think hard about whether you need to modify your mental time scales to avoid putting excessive pressure on yourself at a time when you will likely be both exhausted and madly in love with your baby. You don't need to forgo promotion, but you may well want to postpone it.

Form Your Ideal Plan

Once you've checked you company policy and thought about how much time you'd like, make an outline of your 'ideal' plan. Remember that just by presenting a plan for your leave, you are already showing your commitment and indicating that you intend to return to work. Think ahead about what you want to say, and be prepared to discuss these points with your manager.

  • Know when you expect your leave to begin, though remember babies can be unpredictable
  • Be realistic in predicting your return date. It's generally better to build in a little extra time in case you need it.
  • Make a list of job responsibilities that will be affected by your leave. Outline suggestions for how the work might be handled in your absence.
  • Decide if you want to do any work from home. Be realistic, unless you have help at home, there won't be a lot of time to concentrate on work matters.You should also discuss if and how you'd like to communicate with work during your leave.

Suggest your 'ideal' scenario for returning to work. While it's best to be somewhat flexible and ready to compromise, be wary of compromising too much. If you are convinced you want to work four days a week and you are persuaded to work full time, you're likely to become increasingly unhappy and lose motivation over time.

Presenting your Plan

During the meeting with your manager try to show an interest in balancing your personal needs with the company needs. To avoid any misunderstandings later, be honest about any concerns or fears you may have about the impact of the leave on your career. Confirming the final decisions in writing may help your leave process go more smoothly and set the stage for your return.

If any changes arise in your leave plan contact your manager as soon as possible. As your leave winds down, remind yourself that it's normal to feel ambivalence, eagerness or both towards your job.

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