Managing Your Maternity Leave

More negotiation tips

  • Think through your arguments—Write the proposal to benefit your supervisor while at the same time giving careful consideration to your priorities in your personal, financial, and professional life. Expect objections and have solutions ready. If you want to work part-time, mention that you can identify and eliminate 20 percent of your workload and are willing to take a 20 percent reduction in pay. Or when you telecommute, there will be improved productivity due to fewer interruptions and no commute time. If you want to work a compressed work week, tell your boss there will be better coverage during extended hours of certain days. Or he or she will save physical space when you and someone else share a desk and telecommute or work part-time on opposite days. Citing flexible work arrangements within your profession and/or industry (especially with competitors) can also be effective.
  • Give your boss a role—Even if you have the plan all worked out, it doesn't hurt to find a way for your boss to have some input. Present your plan and ask how he or she thinks this will work out in your department. Tell your supervisor you can make adjustments to this plan as necessary should circumstances change. Treat it like a proposal that is open to negotiation. The better your plan assures your boss that your work will get done, the more cooperation and flexibility you're likely to encounter.
  • Have a substitute plan ready—Show your willingness to be flexible by preparing a second leave plan to present if the first one meets resistance. Under FMLA, you can break up your twelve weeks in any way. For instance, you can take eight weeks up front and then spread the next four over several shortened work weeks before returning full-time. Your employer will likely be amendable to this idea, as she or he will surely be eager to get you back into the office as soon as possible.
Remember, your significant other is also entitled to take a twelve-week FMLA leave with the arrival of your child. Unless you work for the same employer, you can each take up to twelve weeks at the same time, you can overlap a portion of your leaves, or you can take them consecutively, as long as each leave occurs within a year of your child's birth. (Your partner, of course, will not be entitled to any medical disability pay.) You may be able to arrange for your partner to care for your baby during your initial weeks back at work, which would no doubt make the transition a much easier one for you.

  • At the first meeting, accept the points you've agreed on and leave—Now that you know your employer's objections to other points, you'll be able to develop new ideas to be discussed at another meeting. Don't rush into anything; once you announce an early decision, either you're stuck with it or you look indecisive to your colleagues if you change it. Much of your decision will depend on your level of energy, the progression of your pregnancy, and the kind of work you do.
  • Suggest a trial period—That way you and your supervisor can review the arrangement and make adjustments if needed.
  • Don't be pressured into accepting an unsuitable leave plan—If you're presented with a leave plan that is clearly unacceptable, say that you'll need time to think it over and make another appointment. Don't let your superior force you into an arrangement that's bad for you and your family. Say nicely but firmly, "In fact, I am planning to take the full twelve weeks offered by federal law. Here's the plan I've drawn up." If your boss is really uncertain about what the law provides, tell him or her you'll be happy to provide an update and bring a copy of the offices policy. Remember, you're not asking for approval, but anything you can do to make your supervisor better informed, especially about the law, will benefit both you and other moms-to-be who follow in your footsteps. If it just doesn't seem to be working, see "Work Options to Consider," below.
  • Document everything—Keep a written record of all the points agreed upon (see Sample Maternity Leave Agreement), or write a memo covering everything. Sign it, date it, and have your boss do the same. Keep a copy for yourself, of course, give a copy to your boss, and give another one to the personnel department.

More on: Work

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© 2005 by Marla Schram Schwartz. Excerpted from The Working Woman's Baby Planner with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

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