No Right to Maternity Leave: How Do I Negotiate Time Off?

Question: Your post about pregnancy and job search was really helpful. Here’s a follow-up.

When I interviewed I was pregnant, and didn’t share that with my interviewers, mostly because it will be a few months before I start “showing,” and I want to “prove my value” by then.

The company’s policy is that employees must be working one full year before being given a maternity leave. While I don’t expect them to pay me to take two months off, I would at least hope that they are at least nice about letting me take time off without taking away my benefits.

How would you even start discussions?

Stamford, CT

Answer: Before you do anything, “gather data.” By this, I mean discreetly find out how the company has previously treated other women in your situation – that is, pregnant during the first year of employment. Female co-workers with toddlers might be a good place to start.

Find out, too, what exactly is the company’s policy regarding maternity leave during the first year. It is not likely that they fire such employees; it’s more likely that they don’t pay them during such pregnancy-related time off. Many companies do that, but also permit (a) sick days and/or (b) accrued vacation days to be used for this purpose. They might even permit future vacation to be used, as well.

Working from home before and after your delivery might be a good accommodation to be requested under the circumstances. Most importantly, you need to decide what would be best for you and your baby.

When you have both (a) gathered and considered all of the information you can, and (b) decided what is best for you and your baby, I suggest you then (c) ask for a meeting with your boss to discuss an important issue, and at that meeting both “present the problem” and “offer the best solutions.” I don’t mean to suggest that being pregnant is a “problem,” rather that meeting all of the needs of the various parties is a challenge to be met.

The approach should be like everything else you raise with your boss: “We have a circumstance to deal with. Let’s decide on a good plan. Getting the work done and keeping the clients happy remain important goals. New circumstances present a new factor to be considered in our work.” It should be done professionally, proactively, and in a practical manner.

Follow up the meeting with a confirmatory “Thank You” email in which you thank your boss for his or her time, consideration and understanding, and you appreciate the fact that you two have committed to find a way to address the concerns of all. That is probably the time to speak with your HR representative to ensure that company policy and practice are being taken into consideration.

Hope this helps. I consider kids the best part of life. I am so happy for you. I am including you and your baby in my prayers.

Best, Al Sklover

© 2009 Alan L. Sklover. Commercial uses prohibited. All rights reserved and strictly enforced.

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