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Getting Ready for Maternity Leave

Not planning your maternity leave ahead of time is like leaving on vacation without any reservations.  As soon as you get pregnant -- or even when you start planning for pregnancy -- it's a good idea to find out what your employer's leave policies are and to set a schedule to get ready for your departure.

Doesn't Everyone Get Maternity Leave?

According to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, All U.S. companies that employ 50 or more people must offer employees expecting a baby at least 12 weeks of leave. Unfortunately, the time is not required to be paid. Your state may offer additional coverage beyond what the federal law guarantees.

Only 8% of U.S. companies offer any paid maternity leave, which means it's likely that you'll either be going back to work before you really feel ready, or you'll be taking unpaid leave.

Plan for Your Partner's Leave, Too

The Family and Medical Leave Act applies to partners, too, so talk with your partner about the leave he or she can get from work. Make sure the two of you discuss these issues before your due date gets too close:

  • Do you want your partner to take time off while you're first home with your baby?
  • Would you rather your partner take leave after you return to work, so you can hold off a little longer on needing child care?
  • What other work options might help you and your partner adjust to parenthood?

Talk With Your Employer

In addition to taking official maternity leave, you may be able to accumulate more time off by using vacation time, sick leave, disability, or other kinds of personal leave time. Find out what's allowed.

You can also ask your employer about options for when you return that might give you more time with your baby, such as:

  • Flexible hours (perhaps you can come back part-time at first)
  • Work-from-home options
  • Job sharing

If you have any trusted co-workers who have already gone through maternity leave, ask them:  

  • How they managed work and taking care of their newborn
  • Which job strategies worked best for them
  • What they wish they had done differently

Review Your Health Insurance

Take some time to read through your health insurance and its pregnancy, labor, and delivery coverage. If you can't find the answers to these questions on your own, call to talk with an insurance representative:  

  • What's your deductible, if any?
  • Which doctors and specialists need to be in-network for the best coverage?
  • How much of your pregnancy care is covered?
  • Do you need add-on coverage? Is it available through your current insurance company?
  • Which parts of labor and delivery are covered?

You might be shocked to learn that, although the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1987 mandates that employer-provided insurance policies cover maternity care, businesses with fewer than 15 employees are exempt from this mandate.

If you're taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, your employer is required to maintain your group health insurance coverage, including your family's coverage, throughout your leave. (You'll still have to pay any premium co-pays during this period, even if you're not getting paid.)

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