If you'll be negotiating your maternity leave or seeking to improve your company's policy, it's best to have a plan in mind before you break the news of your pregnancy. Follow these steps:
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Do Your Homework
Find out if you're covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 or a state law, or if your company's policy is better than what these laws guarantee. Look into what comparable businesses offer employees. Also, if any of your coworkers managed to strike a deal, discreetly ask them how they did it.
Decide What You Really Want
If time off is most important, for example, consider offering to work three days a week before returning full time. But beware of making promises that will be hard to keep, such as saying you can do a lot of work at home. You'll be sleep-deprived and caring for a newborn.
Tally Your Leave Time
How In fact, your company can require that you make your vacation and sick days part of your 12 weeks off; that's legal under the FMLA. But if women need to use paid sick days during pregnancy, for instance, then they have fewer options for pay during maternity leave.
Think Like Your Boss
Determine why your proposal is a good idea from your boss' perspective, advises Cindia Cameron, organizing director for 9to5, National Association of Working Women.
Look for Potential Allies
But try not to go over your supervisor's head. If you must go to higher-ups, let your boss know what you're doing, suggests Cameron, organizing director for 9to5, National Association of Working Women.
Put It in Writing
People can forget things or get confused, reminds Cameron. Write a memo outlining what you've agreed to, and send it to your boss and the human resources department.
Set a Precedent
Whether you're the first woman at your company to have a baby or the latest in a line of moms, chances are you won't be the last, and your employer will have to address this again. Point out that improving the policy now is good business.