I can propose my own maternity leave plan, now what?
October 27, 2010 12:28 PM   Subscribe

I work on salary for a tiny company in CA. I am pregnant. No one has ever been pregnant at my company, so I can propose a Maternity Leave plan that works for me and works for them. It's a very humane company, so I'm not concerned about the lack of legal protection. But what should I propose? What is "normal"? How much time off do people who love their jobs usually want?

The company is 4 people and we organize conventions. We are in California, so there are state short-term disability benefits. We work from our homes. I am due right on top of a conference, so I can plan it, but cannot attend and manage it on-site. We have a lull after the conference. There is no official policy for this. We do not even accrue sick or vacation time, we take what we need.

I am thinking currently of something like this (this assumes no complications, etc, an ideal world):

I transition out of most of my tasks 1 month before I am due (3 weeks before conference), I keep in the loop and provide oversight, a contractor is brought in to provide some coverage for the last bit and on-site.

3 weeks before I am due, I "go on leave" and collect one week of vacation to fulfill the CA waiting period for benefits. In reality, I probably keep doing some work, and swap this week for a true week off after the birth after my benefits run out. You lose your pre-birth weeks if you do not take them, but with the conference approaching I really can't cut out too early.

2 weeks before I am due, I start collecting pre-birth CA disability. I ask my employer to pay the portion of my salary not covered (it's around 50% I think)

I get post-partum disability for 6 weeks after the birth. I again ask my employer to pay the rest of my salary (around 50%). During this time, no additional coverage is required for my position.

This is where my plan becomes less clear. There won't be a ton of work to do, I could work 25%-30% of the time for several weeks and probably get paid my full salary and that would be how the flow of work usually goes in my company, I'd only be shirking a little bit. There's also 6 more weeks of CA 50% paid family leave I can take right away, or any time in the first year. I could also probably get several more weeks leave just paid. Basically, I love my job, I work from my home, and weeks 6-16 post-birth fall into a quieter time of year. If I can do 1-2 hours of a work a day, I can "be back" and then ramp up over the course of a month. But when should I propose to "be back"?

Husband gets some leave too, and he also gets the 6 weeks CA family leave, which he can take any time in the first year. We don't have a major support system nearby. Lots of friends and some family, but not people that I think will come take care of a baby.
posted by Mozzie to Work & Money (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Congratulations on your pregnancy!

I was in a similar situation, but I am in another state which does not offer state-paid STD coverage. I did have my own STD policy, though, through work. I worked at a 5-person non-profit organization at the time I conceived.

I was going to ask for 14 weeks (3 months) after the birth, with no compensation from the employer. I was primarily interested in my job still being there when I returned--like your situation, my job wasn't protected under FMLA (not sure if CA has a stronger law than FMLA).

There is no standard maternity leave, from what I've found. I've had friends who went back 8 weeks post-partum, 12 weeks post-partum, and so on. But I've also known of women (students, when I was in college) who came back immediately.

While you can propose anything you want, you should be prepared to face that your employer won't feel obligated to pay your salary while you are away. That's just business, and it's not likely personal.

I would not recommend working during part of your maternity leave. I think that is a slippery slope, from what I've seen.

What I would do is have a contingency plan. Pregnancy doesn't always go the way it's intended to. I ended up getting pre-eclampsia and was in the hospital at 31 weeks, delivered at 32 and stayed home for about 4 months before coming back part-time. My leadership was very flexible and fortunately everything was wonderful.
posted by FergieBelle at 12:39 PM on October 27, 2010

This is so different for everyone. And part of it, I think, depends on what you have planned for the care of the baby once you do go back to work.

I worked for a very large law firm; we got 12 weeks of fully paid maternity leave, plus could take 4 weeks of vacation; plus could take additional unpaid time if we worked it out directly with the people we worked with.

I now work for a small firm; they have no policy. I suspect I would get 6 weeks of disability pay, and then come back "part time" to ease into the transition.

16 weeks was perfect for me with my first kid - I could not have left her at a daycare, as much as I love my daycare, before that. Also, hormones caused me a lot of trouble until then. But people go back earlier all the time.

It sounds like you have a good plan.
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:41 PM on October 27, 2010

I don't know how you define "tiny," but if your company has at least 5 employees, you're covered under the Pregnancy Disability Leave Act (PDL). This provides you up to 4 months of job-protected leave, as long as you're disabled that entire time.

What does your company pay other employees who are out on a medical leave? For example, if someone had surgery, would your company pay them to be off of work? If so, it's fair that you would get the same deal. As for actual length of time, a 12-week leave period is common in the United States, although it's typically by definition unpaid.
posted by pecanpies at 6:44 PM on October 27, 2010

I'd say that at 3 months, for most babies, a sort of switch happens and they seem a lot sturdier. This also seems to be reflected in the protocols for medical care for infants, too -- they are treated as quite fragile up until 3 months (for fevers, you bring them in immediately and generally get a series of tests to rule out bacterial infections; for coughs, you only give them a couple of days before bringing them in; etc.), and then after that, they're treated like all other children. So I would expect that if things go in a typical way, you'd probably not want to leave your baby in group care until they're about three months old.

On the other hand, I worked the Friday before I was due, and gave birth, on the following Monday. If you're healthy and everything's going well, there's really no reason not to save up all your leave for after the baby is here, and cobble together a longer leave from short-term disability, maternity leave, and vacation time.
posted by palliser at 7:52 PM on October 27, 2010

I'm in California, and work for a very large company with excellent benefits. I worked up until a few days before giving birth, took 8 weeks disability (ended up with a c-section, remember that 6 weeks might suddenly become 8), then took the 6 weeks PFL, then added on as much paid vacation as I could, and managed to stretch it out to around 4.5 months. Don't commit to a return date, even if you think you have one, just talk with your employers in ballpark terms. For example, choose a month that you think you plan to return, rather than a week or an exact date.

What's your plan for childcare when you return to work? Daycare? Nanny? Flex hours with husband? Family member? This, IMO makes a difference to how you plan your return. If you plan to use daycare, start looking now, it is ridiculously hard to find infant daycare spots in LA. This almost had an impact on my return to work date, as I didn't have anything lined up until about 2 weeks before I returned. We found somewhere amazing at the very last minute.

This also depends how you feel about parenting and leave, but personally, I wanted as much time at home with each of my babies as possible, even though I LOVE my job.
posted by Joh at 9:43 PM on October 27, 2010

Problem with this plan is that if you go late past your due date (say 2 weeks late), you have burned up too much leave before birth. It is also very boring to be sitting around at home waiting for a baby to show up. I recommend staying at work as long as you can before birth, modifying duties so you are not working beyond your physical capacity.

I also work at a large company and received 12 weeks paid maternity leave post partum. We had a difficult time feeding my daughter so going back to work at all after 6 weeks would simply have been impossible. 12 weeks was manageable. By the last 4 weeks of leave I was finally managing to enjoy time with baby, it was nice to do this guilt-free without fitting in work somewhere into my day.

Going back to work at 100% time immediately was not too bad. I would recommend this over partial work.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:39 AM on October 28, 2010

I'd say to give yourself a full 12 weeks, at least, with your new baby. Don't try to work during maternity leave - almost all new moms are exhausted, emotionally drained, and dealing with rushes of hormones during this time. Plus, new babies need so much attention and care that you might not get much work done. Three months is about when things steady out.

If you are healthy and the pregnancy is going fine, you really don't need to stop working a month before, especially if you are already working from home. Are you saying that your pre-birth leave is a separate pool of money from your post-partum? If so, then of course you would want to take it, do your "nesting", etc. But if it isn't, save that time for being with the baby and letting your own body recover.

posted by Knowyournuts at 10:36 AM on October 29, 2010

Thanks for the replies everyone. Especially since mine is such a special snowflake of a situation.

They were all good answers, I marked "best" ones that were most useful for my situation.
posted by Mozzie at 11:34 AM on October 29, 2010

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