I became pregnant with my son during my last semester of undergraduate work. Because my husband still had nearly two years left for his undergraduate studies, we decided that I would be the one to get a job. After a grueling job search (that included illegal questions from many potential employers about my pregnancy and my husband’s employment status), I finally landed a job as a cashier at a local farm and ranch store.
My employer, of course, offered 12 weeks of unpaid leave as required by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for companies with at least 50 employees. However, because of our financial situation, I was only able to take four weeks off. When deciding how long to take off for maternity leave, you will need to consider your situation, and what is available with your company.
Your first task is to understand your options under FMLA. If I had better understood my options, I probably would have taken more leave. It’s true that companies are not required to provide you with paid leave (in fact, very few companies in the U.S. offer paid leave). You only qualify, by law, for FMLA leave when you have worked at the company for at lease 12 months, and at least 1,250 hours during the previous year.
My employer was kind enough to offer the leave even though I didn’t meet the employment requirements that made it necessary. However, what I didn’t realize is that there are three main types of eligible pregnancy leave under FMLA:
You do have to request your leave at least 30 days before taking it, though, so this means that you need to plan ahead. Many employers are willing to work with you when you are up front. Realize, though, that if you and your partner work at the same place, you are only entitled to 12 weeks combined, so you get more total leave time if you work at different places.
Due to our situation, we didn’t have a lot of time to save up money for my unpaid leave. We were only able to save up enough for four weeks of leave. If you have been working for longer, though, you might be able to save up enough that taking the entire 12 weeks is feasible. You and your partner might even be able to alternate, so that for the first 24 weeks of your baby’s time in your home are spent with one of you.
You should also find out your employer’s policies.
Additionally, some Your employer’s policies, and the policies of your partner’s employer, will have bearing on how long you can take.Another consideration is what you need to do at work. The FMLA requires employers to let you come back after up to 12 weeks of leave with the same pay and benefits, in the same position (or a similar position) as you had before. However, if you are working on a big project, or if you have other responsibilities, you might want to come back sooner, or work out a plan that allows you to telecommute for some of the time. You will have to determine, with your employer, what constitutes leave time, and what constitutes work time, and create a plan under intermittent parental leave.
Time with your family is important after an adoption, or after you give birth. Plan ahead so that you can make the most of that time.