Managing Your Maternity Leave

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When the answer is no

What to Do If Your Employer Does Not Have a Maternity Leave Policy
If your research has uncovered the absence of any maternity leave policy in your company, you may have to argue first for a policy before you consider negotiating for a leave. Begin by checking out what comparable organizations do for their employees so you can assess the likelihood of getting what you want and frame arguments in support of your position.

Next, try to gather support by asking what others think. Try to gauge the level of demand for the policy you have in mind. Approach the right person. Speak with a supervisor .If you're part of a collective bargaining agreement, talk to your union representative.

Don't give up when the answer is no. It may take a long time to plant the seed about a family-friendly policy, but eventually a groundswell of support for the idea will grow, and responsive management may then be more willing to consider your concerns. When arguing your case, the following benefits to the company should be covered:

  1. Morale—So many women have flooded into the marketplace (and even more are now attending college) that no firm can expect a women-free work environment now or in the future. When female employees know that a leave policy exists, their morale and productivity is higher.
  2. Recruitment—A liberal policy would be a strong incentive for any person considering a job in the firm.
  3. Turnover—No company can afford a high rate of turnover. The absence of a policy encourages young women to leave.
  4. Competition—Many firms have these policies nowadays. If two companies are competing, the one without a policy is in a weakened position.
If your employer does not want to give you a lot of time, consider asking your employer to pay for your medical insurance coverage while on leave, or at least, to share the cost of keeping you on the company plan.

It takes time to initiate new company policies. You may not sell the idea the first time around, but if your argument is followed by others, in time your employer will have to reconsider. Feel proud of the fact that future working women will benefit from your efforts to make your job a better place to be.

Be aware that if your employer does not treat pregnancy as a disability, its policies probably do not conform to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and applicable state law. In that case, you should consider contacting the federal Equal Opportunity Commission (or state's equivalent) or an attorney to explain what your rights are.

FYI: Does Maternity Leave Cost More?
A study by the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit research group, finds that maternity leave costs a company less than it would cost to train a replacement. Other studies have shown that businesses that provide maternity leave profit in other ways: women are more loyal, more productive, miss fewer days at work, and work longer into their pregnancies. They are also more likely to return to the job after childbirth.



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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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