Quitting after maternity leave: should she tell her boss?
March 14, 2011 2:48 PM   Subscribe

Quitting after maternity leave: should she tell her boss?

Some questions:
- Should a woman tell her boss that she intends on quitting after her maternity leave?
- What are the potential repercussions of telling vs. not telling?
- What if she is asked directly what she intends to do?
- What if she wants to keep that door open for future work, down the road?

Thanks for your time!
posted by cgs to Work & Money (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If her boss were planning on laying her off in a year would they tell her now? I don't think she owes her employer any more loyalty than they would show her.

You don't say where this woman is. The potential repercussions go from none to being fired before the leave starts, which will depend in part on who pays her salary during the leave, whether they're required to hold her job, and how long the leave is.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:56 PM on March 14, 2011 [12 favorites]

Response by poster: Should she just consult her hiring documents or feel comfortable talking to HR about it?
posted by cgs at 2:58 PM on March 14, 2011

Where she lives makes a huuuuge difference when it comes to this kind of question. Where I live, I've known plenty of people who did this and they didn't decide not to come back until their leave was almost up. Nothing happened to them (it's an at-will state and they weren't on a contract or anything). But that may be very different, depending on location.
posted by elpea at 3:00 PM on March 14, 2011

Response by poster: this is in new york city.
posted by cgs at 3:01 PM on March 14, 2011

This can be a complex question that can vary not only according to the state (in this case, New York) but also the size of the company and individual company policies. My personal advice would be to take the leave and keep mum about quitting till the end of it, and not breathing a word about it to HR or management about it ahead of time, but only after consulting any employee handbook materials she might have to ascertain there's nothing in there about being penalized (for example, being billed retroactively for benefits, etc.).

That said, I've also known a number of women who decided not to come back to work at the end of maternity leave, and nothing happened to them. I also recall -- but don't have a cite for this -- that one of my friends who did this said it's illegal for an employer to ask a woman directly if she intends to return after maternity leave.
posted by scody at 3:09 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Will she be on FMLA during that time? If she informs her employer that she doesn't intend to return, they could terminate her employment immediately and end the FMLA coverage.
posted by rhapsodie at 3:11 PM on March 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Is she getting paid during the leave? Receiving benefits? Is whatever she's getting guaranteed by law? Is she certain she's going to quit after, or only leaning in that direction?

If there will be no adverse consequences for telling, then doing the employer a courtesy by so informing them seems like the decent thing to do -- and the beneficial one in the sense that they'll be happier with her and speak more favorably of her, etc.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:14 PM on March 14, 2011

I don't know the downside of giving the notice unless you want to keep your options open. If you are sure you are leaving then tell them.

Pregnancy is considered a protected medical condition. Trying to fire you during that time would be opening themselves up to litigation (and poor form).

Tell them.
posted by bitdamaged at 3:15 PM on March 14, 2011

Tell her to check with an employment lawyer and with copies of the company's family leave policy in hand.

I am not her (or your) lawyer (and I am not an employment lawyer at all), and this is not legal advice. My second-hand experience with female attorney colleagues who go on maternity leave is that they take their leave and maybe their vacation time and then quit when they have to come back to work. Yes, pregnancy is a protected condition under the FMLA, but employers are more than happy to paper your file with negative reviews to ensure that their termination decision is merit based.

I never tell my employer anything other than how much I love my job and bound out of bed each morning, excited by the prospect of another glorious day in the office.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:27 PM on March 14, 2011 [16 favorites]

When I was pregnant I blithely mentioned to the HR person that I wasn't planning on coming back after my maternity leave. He told me to hold off on saying anything to my boss, on the grounds that I could possibly change my mind. I took his advice, though I did not return to the company.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:46 PM on March 14, 2011

OMG, I would not talk to HR about it! Never forget, HR works for the company; they do not work for you.
posted by browse at 3:52 PM on March 14, 2011 [16 favorites]

My employer has a paragraph in the FMLA packet that says:

If you do not return to work following family/medical leave for a reason other than: (1) the continuation, recurrence, or onset of a serious health condition that would entitle you to family/medical leave; or (2) other circumstances beyond your control, you may be required to reimburse [employer] for your share of health insurance premiums paid on your behalf during your family/medical leave of absence.

So, that's something that you would want to look into ahead of time.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:53 PM on March 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

Seconding what rabbitrabbit said, and what my understanding of the policy was when I took maternity leave. If the employee is taking FMLA maternity leave, and don't work at least a month full time (or something thereabouts; could be longer, I can't remember exactly) after returning from FMLA, they have to pay back the premiums.
posted by Mimzy at 4:13 PM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't tell them because you don't know what may happen. What if you got laid off, would your wife still quit? What if her employer goes through a layoff. If they terminate her ahead of time then she may be ineligible for unemployment benefits. What if the pregnancy becomes complicated and she needs disability or some other assistance?

The near future is uncertain and I don't think there's much to be gained by ever telling your employer that you plan to quit.

Good luck to you both and best wishes for the new baby! It's sad that the system is designed this way.
posted by amanda at 4:16 PM on March 14, 2011 [6 favorites]

So here's the thing, every time an employee goes on maternity leave we half expect them not to return because sooo many of them don't. If she decides not to return this isn't going to be any sort of gigantic shock to anyone at the company, certainly not to anyone in HR.

She should keep her mouth shut until the end of her leave though, just in case. She should also be ready and prepared to repay any benefits she received during her leave because that will absolutely be required. If she is asked directly the decision is hers as to what to say. In my experience the people who declared most vehemently that they would be returning are usually the ones that didn't. She can give a non-committal answer or she can say she doesn't know or she can lie. I don't know about her boss but until she is back in the office for at least two months no one in HR is truly going to believe it. :o)

Keeping the possibility open for future work depends on the employer. Do they often allow employees who quit to come back? Does she have a good relationship with her boss? Is the company an asshole in general? Can't answer this one because every company/employee/relationship is different.
posted by magnetsphere at 5:55 PM on March 14, 2011 [7 favorites]

I'm not the pregnant-getting type, but lemme tell you about my most recent job transition, because I sure think it's relevant.

I worked for more than seven years at a very proper "we wear suits because we are serious people" consulting company, a very large firm, and I was coming off of solid reviews and a raise. Monday morning I gave two weeks of notice in person to my boss, and he asked for a day to see about a counteroffer. At the close of business Tuesday I got word back that they can't make a realistic counteroffer, sorry to lose you, blah blah blah. Wednesday, nothing new. Thursday, my immediate boss tells me that my two-up boss has declared that the next day, Friday, will be the last day I will be employed or paid.

So, after seven years, I give two weeks notice of my departure date, and the firm gave me one day of notice.

Given that, my advice to the mom-to-be (congrats!) is to keep your mouth shut! The stakes are too high to leave it to any presumption of goodwill.
posted by NortonDC at 7:23 PM on March 14, 2011 [7 favorites]

How solid is your wife's employment? I ask this because I was laid off while on FMLA maternity leave (during which I fully intended to come back). It's legal to do so as long as they have their bases covered - they laid off a bunch of people at the same time. But it wasn't until I contacted them to ask about scheduling a time to return from leave that they dropped the bomb on me - if I'd quit, they would have saved $6k in severance and a lot of money in unemployment. I half-wanted to not come back but I seriously raked it in big time by getting laid off (although I really miss the job and make only 60% of my former salary). I'd never tell anyone to say anything ahead of time for this (rare) reason!
posted by kpht at 8:13 PM on March 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't tell them in advance. She might change her mind (doubtful), but one way or another, for all the company would know, she could theoretically have only decided not to return after she'd had the baby for a few weeks.

I'm a guy and have only quit one job in my adult life, but in that instance my attempt to be a nice guy and respectful employee resulted in being out several hundred dollars since it cost me a few weeks of a scheduled pay increase.
posted by imjustsaying at 2:53 AM on March 15, 2011

If her boss were planning on laying her off in a year would they tell her now? I don't think she owes her employer any more loyalty than they would show her.

That is no reason to not do the right thing.

Whether it is the right thing is a different story. Has she gone out on maternity leave already? If not, why call it maternity leave and not just quitting? If she is already gone, what is stopping her from picking up the phone and quitting now?

If there is nothing stopping either of those things, quit now.

If the concern is forfeiting some benefit, the question becomes "is this benefit something she earned while being employed, or something she is being given with the understanding she will return?"

If she is using up earned sick time, that is something she earned already and there is no ethical problem with continuing to use it. But if she is staying just so she can maintain health insurance until the last possible moment, that's a little dodgy.
posted by gjc at 6:35 AM on March 15, 2011

If she tells them she's not coming back, they can fire her on the spot.
While an employer can ask for repayment of the insurance premiums they paid during the leave, not all of them do it. Unfortunately, there's no way to tell in advance whether or not they'll require it.

Congratulations on the pregnancy!
posted by TEA at 7:03 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the posts, everyone... another factor for us is that i can switch her over to my insurance. Then she would lose the maternity leave, but she would still be covered for the insurance premiums. I guess looking at the paperwork is the first step :-)
posted by cgs at 7:55 AM on March 16, 2011

Just to be clear: her leave doesn't have anything to do with health insurance as far as I know. She could switch to your insurance and it would have no affect on her FMLA leave. Keep in mind that your insurer may insure differently than hers in regards to how much of the birth is covered, etc. Also, you'll most likely be expected to pay out of pocket for your spouse's premiums unless that is a specific benefit that your employer provides.

For what it's worth, I really disagree with gjc that attempting to maintain your health insurance is in any way "dodgy." Insurance is offered as a benefit to employment. Employers benefit when their workers are healthy... right up until the worker quits or dies. If she had a terminal illness and used her benefits and then died... would that be dodgy? If she works for one day after her maternity leave and quits then is it less dodgy? What do you owe your employer other than productive work while employed?

Anyway, this is what is meant by "the personal is political" and in your situation, I think your wife should put her health and family on equal footing with her employer's needs. People quit jobs and are fired all the time for any myriad of reasons. Just because your wife is contemplating a change in her job status in the future is no reason to tip her hand. You really are best served by playing by the rules set up in the business world and these are the rules. It sucks and that's the way it is.
posted by amanda at 11:49 AM on March 17, 2011

Response by poster: Followup: my wife decided to be upfront and tell the truth. She wanted to do right by the company and give them the extra time to find and train her replacement.

The response: the minute she leaves the office on her last day before the baby she will be uninsured. No leave, no benefits.

We are so thankful that her loss of benefits qualifies as a "life event" and I can get her on my insurance.

So, telling the truth did not payoff, in this instance :-(
posted by cgs at 12:36 PM on July 11, 2011

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