As I prepare for maternity leave, I’m quickly learning that many moms-to-be aren’t exactly sure what they need to do before leaving the office. I recently sat down with Nitiah Caudle, who is a seasoned benefits specialist for Quicken Loans. Here are 10 things you should know and do before your maternity leave:
- It’s probably a good idea to start preparing for your maternity leave about eight to 10 weeks prior to your delivery. You don’t want to start too early because you’ll have to review your plans again prior to leaving anyway. This involves reviewing your company’s eligibility requirements and short-term disability policy. Typically your company’s short-term policy is the maternity leave policy. This is the policy that outlines your pay while you are out.
- Be clear about what percentage of your salary you’ll receive while on leave. Most companies pay between 40-70% of your salary. Visit your company’s internal web site or review your employee handbook for more information.
- Read the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which protects parents’ jobs (without pay) for up to 12 weeks after a birth or adoption.
- Many moms-to-be often think that you automatically get 12 weeks off for maternity leave. But your time is actually based on your type of birth. At most companies, you get six weeks off for a natural birth or eight weeks for a C-section. If you end up going on leave early, then it could require you to tap into long-term disability.
- Decide how much time you need and talk to a human relations specialist at least a month ahead of time to outline your leave and return timeline. Know your options to supplement your pay while you’re on leave. Calculate how many sick days, personal days, comp days and vacation days you have coming to you, in case you need to tap into them.
- Be sure to communicate your timeline to your team leader at least a month in advance. Be prepared to discuss whether there’s a need to train someone to temporarily replace you. After this discussion, follow up with your leader with a summary of the details about your leave.
- In addition to the short-term disability typically available to team members who have been with their company more than a year, many companies also provide Parental Time for both men and women. This may consist of one to two weeks of time off paid at 100% of your salary.
- Ask about additional resources. Your human resource specialist may know of programs through health insurance companies and community organizations that provide assistance, education or tools. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield offers a program called “Little Steps Maternity Program” which gives moms free access to a health coach. Some companies also provide matched funds toward parents’ day care and latch key expenses. You can connect with the Women’s Bureau to find out whether your state has parental leave laws that go beyond the FMLA.
- Schedule a reminder on your calendar to update your benefits plan and information with your new dependent(s). This may include changing from a PPO plan to an HSA plan or vice versa. Most companies give you 30 to 60 days to change your plan after a life event such as a birth.
- Moms should take full advantage of the benefits their company provides and enjoy this very eventful time in their lives. In some cases, this is prime time you get to focus on your child, so don’t get in a rush to work from home or return prematurely back to work.
You can also learn more about maternity leave by reading “The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book.” Do you have any more tips on parental leave? Share in the comments below!