Planning for Unpaid Parental Leave

Don't wait -- start asking your employer questions now.

If you lived in Sweden, you could look forward to 96 weeks paid maternity leave -- a year of that time at 80 percent of your regular salary. But unless you're planning to relocate, it pays to plan ahead for the period of unpaid leave many moms in the U.S. must manage in the early months of their baby's life.

The law provides some options. The rest you'll need to map out yourself with your employer. If you work for a company with more than 50 employees and you are eligible under the rules, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides for 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. During that time, your employer must continue your health insurance coverage and allow you to return to the same job or an equivalent one.

Here are some other options for getting the most out of your maternity leave:

  • Use your vacation or sick days. This is a good way to continue collecting a paycheck during maternity leave. But keep in mind that if you spend down all your paid time off, it won't be available to you later when you may want to take a day off if your baby gets sick or your child care arrangement falls through.
  • Use your short-term disability benefits. Check with the benefits contact at your company to find out what your firm provides in the way of short-term disability benefits. You may be able to collect 40 to 60 percent of your salary during the time you are off the job. Generally, short-term disability covers six weeks after a normal delivery or eight weeks after a cesarean. Your doctor will need to certify that you are unable to work during this period.
  • Consider telecommuting or another flexible work arrangement. Take a proposal to your manager and see if this creative arrangement may work for you. Remember that in the first few weeks, any kind of work (other than taking care of yourself and your family) may be impossible. But once you and your baby settle into a routine, you may be able to phase in some bursts of work time.

Source: Mercer Human Resources Consulting

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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