Asking for Maternity Leave: 4 Tips

If you have recently confirmed that you are expecting a child and are thinking about asking for maternity leave, there are many important things to consider beforehand. Having a baby is an exciting time in anyone’s life, however it can be worrisome for women who work outside the home and need to ask for time off to have their baby and care for their newborn afterwards. Here are some simple ways to ask for and get a reasonable maternity leave so that this time can be more enjoyable.

Know Your Rights Pertaining to Maternity Leaves

Before asking for a maternity leave, be sure to read up on the employment laws that pertain to maternity leaves. In the US, there are no mandates stating that employers must grant maternity leaves; however there are laws about taking approved leaves to care for newborns. Under the current Family Medical Leave Act, for companies that have a minimum of fifty employees in one state, an employee who works for twelve months can be granted an unpaid leave for up to twelve weeks to care for their children. That means if you are with a large company and have worked full time for at least a year, you are allowed to take a leave without fear of losing your employment status.

How Far in Advance to Ask

While the rule of thumb is to wait until you are into your second trimester of pregnancy before reporting the pregnancy and asking for a maternity leave, some women choose to do this a little sooner based on the type of work they perform. With jobs that involve heavy lifting, long periods of standing or exposure to harmful substances, employers should be notified of your pregnancy as soon as possible so that accommodations can be made for your safety and that of your unborn child. At this time, any maternity leave policies can be discussed with your immediate supervisor or the head of personnel so that plans can be made in advance of your leave.

Observe Other Women’s Maternity Leaves

Chances are, you’ve probably experienced other female co-workers who have had to take maternity leaves at some point. Think back to how things went for them and if they were provided with a full twelve weeks off or if they returned earlier. This will help you gauge how and when you should ask for a maternity leave and how much time you may want to ask for. If you think there may be a negative reaction from a supervisor or co-workers, seek the advice and support of your human resources officer or an outside employment law advisor.

Think Ahead About any Possible Alternatives

Prior to asking for a maternity leave, be sure to think ahead about any possible alternatives to returning to the workforce on a full time basis. Many women choose to work part time following the birth of their children in order to have a more family-friendly lifestyle. There are often ways to come back on a part time basis and still have a career after a maternity leave. There are also ways to work part time from home while on a partial maternity leave. Talk to your supervisor about your duties that could be accomplished away from the office or to come up with a maternity leave that works best for your individual circumstances.