Pregnancy is an exciting time. And whether for yourself or someone on your team, it’ll be important to know how to prepare for maternity leave. After learning of the great news that a new baby is arriving, it may not be long before you all start wondering how maternity leave will impact continuity.
According to Zippia, some 70% of women take some form of maternity leave, whether paid and/or unpaid. That reported average duration is 10 weeks. Hence, advance preparation for maternity leave is important for both employee and employer.
The process might seem complex and stressful. But with proactive planning and strong communication, maternity leave shouldn’t negatively impact a company’s long-term plans. The key is to cover all bases in the short term so things don’t fall to the wayside during an employee’s absence. This article will discuss what maternity is and how both employees and employers can plan for time off.
What is maternity leave?
Maternity leave is time when pregnant women take time off from work to have their baby. The amount of leave time will vary, depending on a company’s policies or employee preferences for paid family leave or unpaid leave.
Many people wonder if maternity leave is required. Women cannot be forced to take it, nor will it always be paid if they do. However, the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects the job of a new mother who takes time off to bond with her child during 12 weeks of unpaid leave. This includes those who adopt a child or welcome a foster child. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees aren’t bound by the FMLA, but state maternity leave laws may still apply.
Maternity leave is typically created from several types of leave or other employer benefits that include:
- Sick leave.
- Vacation leave.
- Holiday pay.
- Short-term disability.
- Unpaid family leave time.
- Any other type of unpaid or paid leave.
Developing a solid maternity leave plan is important because the new mom can understand her rights and responsibilities. Human resources can plan for a temporary replacement, comply with applicable laws, and/or develop a continuity plan in the employee’s absence. Establishing a game plan sets clear guidelines for everyone involved. This contributes to a potentially smoother transition for both pregnant workers and their employers and coworkers.
Employee planning for maternity leave
Working moms often find challenges before their maternity leave begins. If you are readying for maternity time, whether for a few weeks or more than a year, you’ll want to share your plans with your direct manager and HR department. To help the process seem less overwhelming, take the following steps:
- Prepare questions to ask HR about your maternity leave. You’ll need to understand your leave benefits, health insurance, legal rights, and company policies.
- Decide how long you want to take leave before and after your due date.
- Develop a proposed plan to get coverage for your core responsibilities. Consulting your work calendar can help jumpstart your plans.
- Inform your direct reports if you are a team lead.
- Check in with clients to share the news and help preserve important client relationships.
- Have a plan in place by the start of your 3rd semester. Include your maternity leave start date and a return date for coming back to work after maternity leave.
Many women find it can be difficult to plan for extended leave. Consider speaking with any colleagues who have recently taken maternity leave and can offer advice and guidance.
Employer planning: how to prepare for maternity leave
As an employer attempting to balance company needs with support for your employee’s growing family life, encourage open dialogue between you. It doesn’t help anyone to focus on the stress or disruption the pregnancy and absence may cause. Instead, focus on the mutual benefits of supporting new moms. And again, being proactive is the best way to go during this critical time. Tips for this include:
- Meet with your employee for an initial conversation to include congratulations.
- Share information relating to benefits, health insurance, paid leave, and how many weeks of unpaid leave are available.
- Collaborate with your employee in developing an internal maternity leave plan for workplace coverage. This might include documenting current day-to-day responsibilities, obtaining a list of contacts/clients, and addressing additional responsibilities associated with the position. Inform the team that their colleague will be on leave and you’ll share the internal plan ASAP.
- Have the employee sign any relevant HR forms and follow other formal guidelines per company policies.
- Hire a temporary employee or distribute work among team members. Have a plan for their assumption of responsibilities to start about a month before your employee takes maternity leave.
- Plan for your committed employee’s return to work.
Not everyone has the same ideas when it comes to maternity leave. It’s common for employers, employees, managers, and coworkers to have very different expectations based on previous experiences or lack thereof. Encouraging and modeling open communication can help better align perspectives, expectations, goals, and outcomes for all.
Proactive planning benefits everyone
Whether you’re a pregnant woman planning for maternity leave or an employer seeking to maintain coverage and employee support, proactive planning benefits everyone involved. The employee can take leave without worries of losing their job or neglecting clients as a result. The employer can direct smoother transitions before, during, and after maternity leave. And the company can maintain continuity for everyone’s sake.
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