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Managing Your Maternity Leave
A United Nations survey found that out of 152 countries, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Lesotho, Switzerland, and Papua New Guinea were the only ones one that did not have a national policy requiring paid maternity leave. The majority of countries surveyed provide benefits through social welfare systems, some require the employer to pay, and still others combine both financing sources.
Out of the millions of working women in this country, only one-third of those are working for businesses that have a maternity leave policy and 50 percent have to take their leave without pay, or use a mixed bag of time off from vacation, short-term disability, parental leave, or sick leave.
While it's important for you to be aware of the implications if you're fortunate enough to work for a company with a maternity leave policy, you should also understand your legal rights under state and federal laws in this area. Federal regulations do not guarantee your right to a maternity leave under certain qualifications, and state regulations are not consistent throughout the United States. What is guaranteed is your right to a disability leave if your company has disability leave for other medical situations.
Understanding the Leave Laws and Policies
In order to make sure that you are being treated fairly and getting all the leave benefits to which you are entitled, it is critical that you understand the following laws and policies:
The Civil Rights Act of 1964
Under the Civil Rights Act, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978
This amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the first piece of federal legislation that stated clearly you cannot be fired for being pregnant.
The National Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 Basic Provisions
- Applies to companies with fifteen or more employees.
- Treats pregnancy, pregnancy-related illnesses, and childbirth on an equal basis with all other medical conditions or short-term disabilities. If, for example, your company offers disability benefits, sick leave, or health insurance to other workers while they're on disability leave, they cannot be denied to you because you're pregnant.
- Employers cannot refuse to hire or promote you, force you to go on leave, or deny you fringe benefits, such as vacation days, seniority credit, or pay increases, while you're on maternity leave.
- If you are temporarily unable to perform your job due to pregnancy, your employer must treat you the same as any other temporarily disabled employee; for example, by providing modified tasks, alternative assignments, disability leave, or leave without pay.
- You must be permitted to work as long as you are able to perform your job.
- If you have been absent from work as a result of a pregnancy-related condition, and you recover, your employer may not require you to remain on leave until your baby's birth.
- Your employer may not have a rule that prohibits you from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after childbirth. And your employer must hold open a job for a pregnancy-related absence the same length of time jobs are held open for employees on sick or disability leave.
Fortunately, with the passage of the National Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, benefits and protection for working families got better.
- Applies to companies with fifty or more employees.
- Allows up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave each year to care for a newborn or adopted child; or a sick child, spouse, or parent; and for personal illness.
- Employees must be given their original position or comparable job upon return.
- Employers must continue to provide health benefits for employees on leave.
- Applies to workers who have been employed full-time for one year or to part-time employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours in the previous twelve months.
- Teachers may be asked to remain on leave until the next school term under certain conditions related to the school calendar.
How the FMLA Works
- Exempts companies with fewer than fifty workers.
- Lets companies deny the benefit to salaried employees within the highest-paid 10 percent of their workforce, if letting the workers take the leave would create substantial and grievous injury to the business operations.
- Permits employers to obtain up to three medical opinions and certifications on the need for the leave.
- If workers do not come back, employers can recapture the healthcare premiums they paid during the leave.
The FMLA doesn't require the leave to be taken by the week or even by the day. If you have an illness that requires treatment several times a week, you could conceivably take your FMLA leave in hour-long blocks. Even though that could drive your employer crazy, if the situation demands it, they are obligated to approve. It's smart to work out a schedule, when possible, that reduces the impact on your employer.
Alert your physician to the situation and ask for help in minimizing the medically necessary leave. Your company's personnel department may be an ally. By giving that office permission to contact your doctor, the official HR spokesperson can have more success than you in getting medical appointments at convenient times.
The law also says that unless the situation is an emergency, you have to give your employer at least thirty days notice that you intend to use FMLA benefits. To minimize resentment created by understaffing, do what you can to make your absence no big deal.
FYI: Both employers and employees say the FMLA is making things better!
Many larger firms actually reported cost savings related to FMLA, mostly from reduced employee turnover and training, and increased productivity and morale. A simple, user-friendly edition of the FMLA can be found on the website of the National Partnership for Women and Families at www.nationalpartnership.org. To inquire by phone, call (800) 669-4000.
State Laws for Maternity Leave
In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that every state has the right to enact antidiscrimination laws to protect pregnant employees. About half the states have enacted laws since then requiring all but the smallest companies to give unpaid leave to pregnant workers. The standard paid maternity/disability leave, which must be certified by a physician, is six to eight weeks plus any accrued vacation time, with the average leave being three months. Sometimes, it's extended for a Caesarean birth.
In many cases, firms must promise the same job, or a comparable one, after the leave has ended. According to federal law, any greater right allowed by state law prevails. Contact your state labor board or employment office for more information.
If your employer doesn't have a disability planoften the case with a small businessyou may have to accept an unpaid leave. In that case, check with your local employment office to find out if you're qualified for unemployment benefits or temporary state disability benefits. Also, a few very progressive companies offer parental leave, which is usually in addition to maternity/disability leave and is available to both men and women.
Even though the FMLA provides new parentsincluding fathers and adoptive parentswith twelve weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn or adopted child, the myth is still around that men who take paternity leave are not serious about their jobs. Also, companies usually don't encourage new fathers to take time off for bonding with a new child.
While 50 percent of all fathers questioned in a national survey said they would spend more time with their children if their jobs permitted, they're more likely to take vacation time or use sick days when their babies are born. That's because they are afraid their managers or coworkers will disapprove. Only 15 percent of men eligible under FMLA make a formal request for paternity leave.
Given a choice between paternity leave or more flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting, most fathers voted for the latter. That's why an increasing number of companies offer benefits such as flexible work arrangements, parenting education classes, and on-site child care.
What to Do When You Suspect Bias Based on Your Pregnancy
Discrimination can occur in many different forms. Under the aforementioned laws, the following subtle and not-so-subtle types of pregnancy and sex discrimination are also prohibited:
- An employer refused to hire you because of your pregnancy-related condition even though you were able to perform the major functions of the job.
- An employer refused to hire you because of his or her prejudices against pregnant workers or the prejudices of coworkers, clients, or customers.
- An employer asked you about future plans that you may have for pregnancy during an interview or after you're hired.
- Certain job responsibilities you were able to perform were assigned to another coworker.
- You were not provided modified tasks or alternative assignments when you were temporarily unable to perform your job while other temporarily disabled employees at your workplace were.
- Your employer singled out pregnancy-related conditions for special procedures to determine your ability to work. (If, however, your employer requires its employees to submit a doctor's statement concerning their inability to work before granting leave or paying sick benefits, your employer may require you to submit such statements.)
- Your well-earned raise had been denied.
- You were given a poor job performance evaluation for no good reason.
- Your employer made sexist comments about your crazy hormones or expanding belly or made unwelcome sexual advances or requests.
If you feel you are treated badly on the job because you are pregnant, there are several steps you can take to remedy the situation:
- Pregnancy-related benefits are limited because you are unmarried.
- Benefits are provided for other medical conditions, but not for pregnancy-related conditions.
- Benefits are provided to workers on leave, but not for those on leave for pregnancy-related conditions.
- You are not treated the same as other temporarily disabled employees for accrual and crediting of seniority, vacation calculation, pay increases, and temporary disability benefits.
- Stand up for yourselfIn a dignified way, make it clear to your boss that punishment for having a child is against the law.
- Keep a written recordDocument any negative comments or insulting behavior regarding your pregnancy. Keep detailed notes on everything, plus copies of all relevant interoffice memos. Get a copy of your personnel file, if possible, and photocopy any past performance reviews. Find out if anyone else in your workplace has experienced similar problems.
- Seek relief higher upGo through whatever channels are necessary to stop the discrimination: your union, your human resources, the personnel department, or your boss's supervisor. Employers are obligated by law to take steps necessary to prevent discrimination from occurring. These include clearly communicating to employees that discrimination or sexual harassment will not be tolerated and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.
- Stay abreast of current lawsA coalition of civil rights groups is lobbying for new legislation to strengthen the civil rights laws. To get more information about what you're legally entitled to, contact:
- 9to5, National Association of Working Women
- National Partnership for Women and Families
- U.S. Department of Labor
- The Employment Law Guide
- File a complaintIf nothing else works, and you're prepared to spend at least eighteen months fighting your case and possibly suffering career repercussions, file a complaint with one of the following:
- American Civil Liberties Union
- Commission on Human Rights
- Department of Fair Employment and Housing
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- National Woman's Law Center
- Women's Legal Defense Fund
- Women's Rights Agency of the State
- Check into the many websites for interviewing about dealing with the "illegal question"
If it is decided that you are indeed being discriminated against, you would be entitled to a remedy that would place you in the position you would have been in if the discrimination had never occurred. You may be entitled to hiring, promotion, reinstatement, back pay, and other remuneration. Some state and local laws do allow damages to compensate you for future pecuniary losses, mental anguish, and inconvenience. Punitive damages may be available, as well, if your employer acted with malice or reckless indifference. You may also be entitled to attorney's fees.
Planning Your Maternity Leave
Before you begin negotiating your maternity leave, you need to do the following important things first:
- Begin planning earlyAs soon as you know you're pregnant, start musing about the responsibilities. Don't hesitate to toss out ideas and ponder new ones. The initial confusion will eventually sort itself out, and you'll be clearer about the way to go. Jot down ideas as they come to you. Refer to your notes often until you decide whether your idea has merit.
- Research your organizationGet a read on the culture of your company by talking to people who have successfully negotiated flexible work arrangements for themselves. Know your supervisor and your negotiating position in the company.
- Check your office manual for flexible work policies and review their provisions thoroughlyResearch your company's literature to study your employer's mission statements, company credos, and consider how you can pull the language in these statements for possible inclusion into your written proposal.
- Review your company's short-term disability and medical policiesYou should search for anything that strikes you as treating pregnancy as any different from any other short-term disability. (Some disability plans will provide for a paid leave to begin two to four weeks before your due date. That would give you time to tie up the loose ends, arrange the baby's room, or just relax.) Of course, your company may have a specific maternity leave policy, so be sure to study that as well.
Find out specifically what paid and unpaid leave you are eligible for. You might have some leave without pay that still includes benefits (usually a combination of your company's maternity leave policy, a short-term disability program, and accrued time off). Add up your accumulated vacation, sick, and personal days, and determine just how much unpaid leave your finances will allow. (Keep in mind when budgeting that your employer can legally require you to use up your paid leave first, and that some states require you to cover at least a portion of your leave before disability kicks in.) Again, check with your state labor office to learn about disability options. This is particularly important if you are working in a smaller company.
- Review your work performance since your last job evaluationYou will want to show two things: First, that you can and have done the job, even through you're pregnant. Second, you want to pay attention so that when the employer starts to reduce your duties, you can document the change. Then make an appointment with your human resources department and let them know about your pregnancy.
- Talk to someone who understands your company's policyYour personnel officer, union representative, human resources department, or office manager will know the answers to your questions. Larger companies will have the facts, in writing, usually in the employee's handbook. You are legally entitled to look at it without having to say why or to specify what policy or policies you're reviewing. Many companies also have this information on the Internet. The smaller your company, the less likely it is to have an official policy (see "What to Do If Your Employer Does Not Have a Maternity Leave Policy," below). You may discover that no policy exists because it's preferred to provide a general leave negotiated on an individual bias.
- Gather intelligenceTalk to several other women in the firm who have gone on maternity leave. They can tell you whether obtaining your rights will be easy or a struggle. Discreetly ask them how they managed to strike a deal. Assuming that a maternity leave policy does exist, your guiding principle in considering it is a simple question: is it made more difficult for pregnant women than for disabled employees? If your company allows employees to return to the job after a heart attack, or an injury from a car accident, or continues their pay while they heal, then it must provide at least the same terms for your disability leave.
- Approach the meeting in a matter-of-fact way and avoid any antagonistic statementsThe person you're meeting with wants to inform you, not to argue about an already established policy. Use the Maternity Leave Policy Worksheet that follows to document the facts about your company's maternity leave policy.
Negotiating the Maternity Leave You Want
How much leave your employer will allow and how much you want will most likely differ. Many companies are now using a sliding scale for maternity leave, based on seniority and length of time an employee has been with the company. Although, realistically speaking, it will be difficult to know for certain until your baby is born, you must do your best now to choose the right maternity leave for you.
Successful bargainers know that negotiation is a compromise. There must be something each party wants in the final agreement. The hour and setting of the meeting are significant factors, as are your employer's personality and management style. Be sure to listen carefully to everything that's said, especially the objections, and watch body language. Always remain professional; emotions don't belong in a negotiating sessions. No matter what the results are, always thank your supervisor for his or her time. Follow these steps to insure a successful negotiating session:
- Make an appointmentDon't ever drop in unannounced. State the purpose of the meeting in advance so that your boss will be prepared for the discussion. Make sure to pick a quiet time of day. If the office is never quiet, consider going to a restaurant.
- Establish your value to the firmThe more valuable you are, the more bargaining power you will have. You must convince your supervisor of your importance to the company by reviewing promotions you've received and your specific contributions to the company. Prepare yourself by making a list of your assets and memorizing them. Tell your boss that giving you what you want benefits the company; your skills and experience make you a valuable employee, and your company could easily lose more time and money by letting you go.
- Handle the meeting as a professionalSpeak in a non-demanding and positive voice. Stress the benefit to the company of cooperating with a valued employee. State your proposal in a confident way; for example, "I propose a cost-saving approach to retaining my training and experience that will also lead to an increase in on-the-job (select: productivity, concentration, energy, loyalty, efficiency, creativity, etc.)."
- Emphasize that you want and plan to returnAssure your boss that you'll be back to work after your leave; there'll be no need to find a permanent replacement. Stress your commitment to your job. If you want a different work arrangement after your leave, this is the time to discuss it (see "Work Options to Consider When Your Maternity Leave Ends," below.)
- Keep your leaving date openTry to keep the beginning date for your leave as flexible as possible. (Remember, the due date is the actual birth date for only one in ten babies, and passing it by two weeks is not uncommon.) You may feel very fit and healthy up to the last minute and want to avoid being bored waiting at home. If you want to stay at work until labor begins, ask your doctor to certify your expected delivery date two weeks beyond your fortieth week.
- Ask for more than you expect to getTack on four to six weeks to your initial supplemental leave request so that there's room for compromise. If you get the maximum you request without need for compromise, take it. You can always return to work earlier if your finances require it. Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, one of America's leading pediatricians, strongly recommends at least a four-month maternity leave. He believes that new parents need that time to get to know their baby. Additionally, most babies have settled into a routine by then, are over their fussy time, and are sleeping through the night (not an insignificant point for working parents). Clearly, your maternity leave should not end until you're physically and emotionally ready. It takes a minimum of six weeks for you to regain your energy. And at least two months are needed for establishing a breast-feeding routine, finding good child care, and adjusting to the greatest life change of all. No matter how much time you take off, your transition back to work will be easier if your partner will take a leave that overlaps your first days back in the workplace.
- Provide good solutions to your boss's problemsBecause your employer's first thoughts will be about the impact on the business, come prepared with a well-thought-out plan for shifting your responsibilities to others; e.g., delegate your work to previously trained staff; hire a recently retired professional; use a professional temp agency; get a graduate student in the field or a student intern; cross-train a coworker, staff person, or junior employee. Reassure your employer that you'll be available by whatever electronic means the company chooses: fax, voicemail, telephone, or pager. The fact of your availability will be more important than the need to contact you. Have a trusted colleague, family, or friend review your work coverage plan before presenting it to your boss.
- Think through your argumentsWrite 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 roleEven 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 readyShow 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 leaveNow 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 periodThat way you and your supervisor can review the arrangement and make adjustments if needed.
- Don't be pressured into accepting an unsuitable leave planIf 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 everythingKeep 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.
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:
- MoraleSo 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.
- RecruitmentA liberal policy would be a strong incentive for any person considering a job in the firm.
- TurnoverNo company can afford a high rate of turnover. The absence of a policy encourages young women to leave.
- CompetitionMany 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.
Work Options to Consider When Your Maternity Leave Ends
Now is the time to think about your working arrangements after you return from leave and to discuss the possibilities with your employer. Many alternatives are possible, although your particular job may not be adaptable to some of them. For example:
- Return graduallyThis is a good option if you're breast-feeding. You might work fewer days a week or shorter hours each day and gradually increase your hours as your child-care responsibilities lessen.
- Bring your baby to workThis option may offer a temporary solution to your child-care problems if you cannot get an extension and have to go back to work full time and your boss finds you indispensable. You can do this if your workplace is somewhat private with a minimum of public contact. Because your infant will be sleeping most of the time, it shouldn't interfere with your work. The trick is to learn how to juggle those times when both your baby and your work need attention.
- Leave of absence or sabbaticalIf you want to take off a much longer period of time but be assured you'll be able to come back to a job, inquire into these possibilities.
- Trade-offsIf your job requires much traveling, you may be able to trade with an associate until you're ready for full-time work. While your associate is on the road, you could be picking up the slack in the office.
- Job sharingThis method allows two people to share the duties of one job. It would work well with another mother, or perhaps a coworker who wants to start semi-retirement. It has advantages for working mothers and for employers who can then keep two valuable employees. Studies have shown that productivity rises under such circumstances, because each jobsharer produces more than 50 percent of the work, and that the turnover rate is lower. Benefits are shared too. To find someone to share with, ask the personnel department if they know of others. Try placements offices of nearby colleges and universities, or employment agencies. Or place an ad in the company or local newspaper.
- Flextime or flexible schedulingYou would still work a full job under this arrangement, but your hours would be at more convenient times. This means that the schedule changes from day-to-day or week-to-week, or it can mean that the hours are fixed but are not standard. It might permit you to share some of the child care with your partner or to work around your breast-feeding schedule. The drawback is that the rest of the world is still working nine to five. The array of flextime options include:
- Flexihour: Employee selects starting time.
- Gliding schedule: Within blocks of time, employee may vary hours without prior notifications or approval.
- Variable time: Employee must be present for a core time five days a week but may otherwise vary length of workday or workweek.
- Maxiflex: Similar to variable time, except that core time is scheduled on fewer days.
- Compressed work weekFull-time employees may work four ten-hour days a week; eight nine-hour days plus one eight-hour day over two weeks; or a week of five nine-hour days followed by a week of four nine-hour days with a day off every other week.
- Voluntary reduced timeV-time is an option that enables employees to reduce their pay and work time by 5 to 50 percent for a specified periodusually six to twelve months. Workers retain their benefits and seniority status on a prorated basis. Companies have begun offering this option to help employees meet family, personal, or schooling needs, as well as offering it as an alternative to layoffs.
- TelecommutingThis allows you the comforts of home and a saving in expenses while communicating with your office through a computer, phone, and fax. You could vary your schedule as it suits you, working in the office some days or just going in for meetings. Regular weekly appearances are important to avoid "out of sight/out of mind," as well as the isolation factor. In many cases, telecommuters keep their benefits, salary, and advancement opportunities. Studies have shown that telecommuting increases productivity 20 to 60 percent and decreases turnover rate. You must set up a separate work area where nothing will be disturbed and have a caregiver for your baby. An answer machine on a separate business number or a business cell phone could take your calls when you are busy.
- Part-time work(Sometimes called a "slightly shortened workday") Fewer than thirty-five hours per week, part-week or part-day .You and your employer would have to agree on your workload and who would handle the balance. Remember that your costs would be lower to balance the reduction in pay. You need to learn whether your benefits would continue under such an arrangement. And you need to think about what effect it would have on your status at work. It might be better to find part-time work in another place. The drawbacks page 309. are that you would be working for an hourly wage and probably would not have benefits.
- Trade-pay-for-timeThe next time you negotiate a pay raise, or are offered one at your performance review, acknowledge your employer's recognition of your performance and contribution to the company, then inform him that you'd like to trade your pay raise for time instead. For example, a 10 percent raise would be traded for four hours off each week. In some cases, you can negotiate more time than money (e.g., a 7 percent raise is traded for 10 percent time off).
- Temporary workThis might be an answer for an interim period.
- Self-employmentFreelancing or consulting offers you flexibility, but you must have flexible child care, too, because you never know when you're going to be working. A drop-in child-care center would be an advantage or a baby-sitter who's on call. Another advantage would be your freedom to do things, such as take your baby to the doctor.
Keep in mind that these elements can be combined: Flextime schedules can be full-time or part-time; part-time workers might also telecommute, and one job-share partner might work a compressed schedule to make physical room for the other partner. You can also propose a short-term, part-time schedule that only lasts two months. For more ideas, see When Your Job and Motherhood Don't Mix.
© 2005 by Marla Schram Schwartz. Excerpted from The Working Woman's Baby Planner with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.
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