5 Tips For A Successful Maternity Leave

You and your significant other have found out that you’re expecting a baby – it’s an exciting moment that you will never forget. Once you have told your family and friends, it’s time to start thinking about work. Taking time off after having a baby can be a difficult transition if you are unprepared.

Whether you are going to be a new mom or dad, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you transition from your job to being at home with your newborn.

Understand your maternity rights and laws

The first thing you should do as an expectant parent is to familiarize yourself with basic maternity rights and laws. Your employer is not required to give you time off after you have a baby. However, companies with 50 or more employees are required to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Do you work in California, Rhode Island or New Jersey? There are additional maternity benefits in those three states that you should look into before your leave.

Read over company policies

Before you announce that you are expecting at work, grab a copy of your employer’s handbook and read over it. Most mothers prefer to wait until the first trimester to announce their pregnancy at work. Not all of your questions, such as short-term disability or healthcare, will be answered in the handbook, but it will give you a start in preparing for your leave. Make a list of detailed questions that you can ask human resources once you have announced that you are expecting.

Create a maternity leave plan

Sit down with your supervisor or boss when it is a good time to discuss a maternity leave plan. They will appreciate your initiative in creating a plan that outlines your transition from the office to your home, and the transition back to work. Ask them for their input when you are developing the plan because they may have some advice or insight that will help you. Your maternity plan should cover ongoing projects, communication you may have with your office while you are out, and whether or not you think your boss should hire a temp or contractor to fulfill some of your work duties.

Not sure how create one? Check out this maternity plan template to get you started.

Once you have created your maternity leave plan, set up a meeting with your supervisor or manager to go over your plan together. Before the meeting, you should decide if you want extra time off with your newborn. Do your research if you plan on negotiating maternity leave and bring the research with you to your meeting. If your request for maternity leave is approved, update your plan to include the negotiated time off.

Set up meetings

Once the most up-to-date version of your maternity leave plan has been approved, make copies to share with everyone in your office. The plan should include dates such as your last day in the office and when you will be returning, who will oversee your direct reports if you have any, and what should be accomplished during your absence. Set up individual meetings with your direct reports to establish expectations and clarify any concerns or issues, and be explicit in your terms. Don’t forget to set up one last meeting with human resources so you can make copies of all your forms. These forms may include vacation request, FMLA, short-term disability, and state disability (depending on where you work).

Understand your healthcare policy

Once you have submitted your forms to the appropriate people (your doctor, the insurance company, and your HR department), follow up to make sure they have received the completed forms. It is important to follow up to ensure you receive all of your entitled benefits while you are out. Look at your healthcare policy to see what type of benefits you will receive while you are out on leave. Most insurance companies give you a 30-day period to add dependents to your policy. Make sure to budget for an increase in your premiums when you add a dependent to your healthcare plan.

There are other things you can do to ensure a successful maternity leave such as securing childcare for when you go back to work, finding out if your employer has a lactation room if you plan on pumping and breastfeeding, keeping a list of work contacts in case of an emergency (even if you plan on being completely unavailable during maternity leave), bringing home your personal affects from work, and setting up an auto-reply at work while you are out.

The key thing is to relax and enjoy your time at home with your newborn. If you follow these tips, you are on your way to being prepared. It is better to be over-prepared when it comes to your maternity leave and newborn.