Maternity leave checklist

Maternity leave checklist

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Expectant moms often wonder how best to plan for maternity leave. Our checklist below guides you through the key steps and questions to ask.

See our detailed article on maternity leave for specifics, including how short-term disability works, tax considerations, and what happens to your benefits while you're on leave.

Planning for maternity leave from employment

The first thing to do when determining how much maternity (or paternity) leave you can take is find out which state and federal regulations apply to your situation. Start by checking whether you are eligible under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a federal law providing certain employees with 12 weeks of unpaid time off to care for an immediate family member, such as a newborn or newly adopted child. The FMLA applies to most men and women who can answer yes to all three of these questions:

1. Do you work for a company with 50 or more employees living within 75 miles, or for a public agency (federal, state, or local)?
2. Have you been employed there for at least 12 months?
3. Have you worked at least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months?

Whether or not the FMLA applies to you, one or more of these additional options may exist for your maternity leave:

  • Short-term disability coverage from your state, company, or a private policy. (A handful of states offer short-term disability programs. Check with your company's human resources department or your state's Department of Labor to see if you're covered.)
  • Paid sick time or medical leave through your company
  • Paid vacation time through your company
  • Unpaid leave covered by state laws for family leave
  • Maternity leave benefits through your union

Preparing documents

As you organize your leave, put your paperwork in a folder. Keep copies of everything, including any forms you submit.

  • FMLA application(s)
  • State family leave application(s), if your state has its own family leave law(s)
  • Vacation time request
  • Any forms your doctor will need to fill out
  • Your company's family leave policy
  • Letters and emails (print them out) to or from your boss, human resources department, or others
  • Notes you take during phone calls to or from your boss, human resources department, and others

Questions to ask your co-workers

Ask around to find out how other women at your company managed their maternity leave.

  • What kind of response did you get from your immediate supervisor, higher-level managers, and colleagues when you asked about maternity leave?
  • How much time did you take off and how did you structure your leave?
  • What arrangements did you make to have your responsibilities covered while you were gone?
  • How did you transition back to work afterward?
  • Were you able to arrange any kind of flexible schedule before or after the baby arrived?
  • What forms did you fill out and where did you get them?
  • Is there anything you wish you had done differently or had known about ahead of time?

Questions to ask your human resources contact

Be sure to take notes when you talk to HR, and keep your notes along with any written documents in your folder. It's always a good idea to print out copies of emails as well.

  • Does the company offer paid maternity leave? How many days?
  • Does the company offer short-term disability (STD)?
  • How many weeks are covered and at what percentage of pay?
  • Can I take additional time off if I have complications and my doctor writes a letter certifying this?
  • Can I buy additional coverage through the company's provider for a monthly premium?
  • Does the state offer STD coverage? How many weeks and at what percentage?
  • Do I have to use state STD benefits first if they're available?
  • Can I take additional time under STD benefits if I have complications?
  • How and when do I apply for STD?
  • Is there a waiting period before I can collect benefits?
  • If I don't have STD benefits, or if I need more time to recover, does the state offer unpaid disability leave?
  • How many vacation, personal, or sick days have I accrued?
  • Are there any limitations on how I can use these days?
  • Do I have to use accrued vacation, personal, or sick days before any other kind of leave?
  • Can I take vacation days that I haven't accrued yet?
  • Am I eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid family leave under the FMLA?
  • Am I eligible for paid or unpaid family leave under the state's provisions or company policy? How much and when can I take it?
  • Will taking unpaid leave affect my schedule for raises and promotions?
  • Will I have to wait longer to be eligible for more annual vacation time if I take unpaid leave?
  • How do I pay my health insurance premiums while I'm on leave?
  • Will I still be covered by my life insurance while on leave, and if I pay a premium for extra coverage, how do I pay those premiums?
  • Are any other benefits affected by my maternity leave?

Planning maternity leave from self-employment

Apply for a private disability policy well in advance of your pregnancy, and make sure the policy includes pregnancy and postpartum coverage. Make sure you have private health insurance in place – or are covered by your partner's insurance – and determine the percentage of prenatal, delivery, and postpartum costs it covers.

  • Review your assets, and carefully plan how you'll cover expenses during your leave.
  • Find out how to apply for any available short-term disability coverage from your state.
  • Find out how to apply for disability coverage from your private policy.
  • Arrange for a trusted colleague or partner to "cover" your clients during your leave.
  • Talk to your clients about the time you'll miss and how the colleague or partner covering for you will meet their needs; how you'll stay in touch and when you plan to return (a good idea if you want to retain clients); and how your colleague or partner will transition the work back to you.

Planning maternity leave from college

Most schools provide for medical leaves for maternity. Talk to your department or a faculty adviser about how you can organize your leave and make up assignments.

  • Find out how to apply for leave by contacting the dean of students.
  • Talk to professors about the time you'll miss and how you can make up assignments.
  • Fill out any applications for leave (and make copies for your files).
  • Find out how your grants, scholarships, or student loans might be affected.
  • Inquire about any loan deferments and apply for them as needed (keep careful records of all conversations and correspondence, including emails).
  • If you have an on-campus job or work-study position, discuss with your supervisor how long you plan to be out of school and whether your position will be available when you return.

Watch the video: CA Maternity Leave Explained by an Employment Lawyer (May 2022).


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