Discussing Maternity Leave With My Employer — The Bump
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Discussing Maternity Leave With My Employer

A quick back story - my family business was sold to one of our competitors in February thus eliminating my qualifications for short term disability and FMLA.  My company is very male dominated - 125 employees with only five women - the only person who's ever taken maternity leave is our CFO, and she only takes six weeks. The last time I met with my doctor, he said he was only allowed to write six weeks leave even for a scheduled c-section.  I think that's insane and would really like to take a minimum of eight weeks.  I have heard from friends who were still very sore after going back to work after six weeks.  Any advice on the best way to approach this with my boss?  I am planning on notifying them of my c-section date later this week. 

Re: Discussing Maternity Leave With My Employer

  • I'm so sorry you're in such a difficult position. If you want 8 or 12 weeks, I would request what you want and not mention your doctor's 6 week max prescription. Try to avoid comparisons with the CFO who only took 6 weeks and perhaps explain that you'll be undergoing major abdominal surgery and find studies or information to back up taking 8-12 weeks for recovery. I'd try to frame it in a way that makes it sound like you're having surgery and want to be a responsible employee who doesn't end up with complications from returning too soon. It'll be better for the company and for your team and everyone involved if you return at full working capacity and don't require more time off in the future due to rushing the initial healing process. I hope this helps and good luck working it out with your boss. FX they're understanding.
  • Thanks for your kind words! I agree that if I come back too soon I may be out longer if I don't have adequate time to heal. Plus I want as much time with my baby as possible!!
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  • In general, medical guidelines require 8 weeks to heal from a c-section, and short-term disability usually recognizes 8 weeks as standard for c-section recovery.

    However, this information may not apply to you.  Maternity leave comes in many different forms.  FMLA only guarantees an "equivalent job", not any salary or other payment.  And FMLA doesn't apply to many employees.  However, it may apply to you, depending on the circumstances of the acquisition.  Did the new employer lay off every employee and rehire you?  Did they recognize prior service for any other benefits (like vacation time)?  If they recognized tenure for other benefits, you have a good argument for FMLA coverage.

    Let's assume the worst-case scenario that you are not eligible for FMLA.  Unfortunately, your employer does not need to keep your job for you.  Most employers will want to do so, since it's generally cheaper to support leave than try to hire to fill the position.  But you're not necessarily entitled to any time off (which is craziness, but that's a different post....).  Are you covered through an STD policy at work?  Depending on how long you've been with the acquired company, your pregnancy may be "pre-existing", and not covered by the policy.

    In this situation, I would present a plan for the time off you want to take.  What other women have chosen to take is not relevant, and should anyone bring it up, simply respond, "This is the plan that works best for me and the business."  You don't need to justify your decisions.  As part of the plan, in addition to the time off you want to take, be sure to highlight how your work should be covered; the easier you make your leave on your employer, the more likely they are to support you.  Good luck!  
  • Thanks @FemShep!  I understand that FMLA doesn't guarantee any salary.  We have been saving in preparation for my time off.  When we started at our new company, all of the employees started from scratch - new vacation time, new benefits, etc...  And because of my pregnancy I didn't qualify for STD.  I am 100% worst case scenario and was originally presented with "Our CFO takes 6 weeks off for pregnancy - is that what you will do too?"  She's the ONLY woman to take maternity leave in a 125 person company with 5 women so you can see where the problem lies.  At that point I was taken back by the question and said I would like to take more time than that especially since I have a scheduled c-section.  

    If medical guidelines require 8 weeks for a c-section, I wonder why my doctor was telling me that insurance regulations only allow them to write a recommended 6 weeks off.  

    I certainly have a plan to present my organized work and will even be available should they have any questions about any pending deals that may be finalized while I am off.  The US really needs to work on their maternity leave policy.  It's incredibly frustrating! 
  • @hulacherry it may be that medical guidelines only allow for 6 weeks, then they need to reevaluate you. So medically he needs to see you at 6 weeks, and can't speak to your recovery beyond that until that point. That is what happened with my co worker's hip replacement. They wrote her out for 4 weeks, then at her one month follow up did not clear her to return until 6 weeks.


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