Managing Your Maternity Leave

Negotiate a compromise

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 appointment—Don'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 firm—The 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 professional—Speak 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 return—Assure 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 open—Try 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 get—Tack 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 problems—Because 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.

More on: Work

excerpted from:

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

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