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The writer below gave me permission to feature her question here.
Hi Pat, I just started your Max Your Maternity Leave book and I’m learning so much.
My husband and I are looking to start a family in the months ahead, but my biggest stress about the whole thing so far is that my employer doesn’t have a maternity leave policy.
I will be the first female manager to get pregnant when it happens so this is uncharted territory where I work. I want to have a plan set in stone since my employer’s habit tends to be making things up as they go along. It’s horrifying!
There’s a coworker who is now pregnant, although she hasn’t officially announced it yet. I’m thinking that this may be an opportunity for my employer to work out a policy and put it in our handbook. They are too small to qualify for FMLA, so we are really starting from scratch.
My questions are these:
- Do we propose the idea that management come up with an official policy knowing that there are several women in the office headed down this path? Maybe we can suggest that we be a part of the conversation.
- Or do we each move forward with our own individual plans, creating a policy for each us separately?
I’m not sure if there is an advantage to doing one or the other, but was wondering if you have any advice.
No Maternity Leave Policy? No Problem (My Reply)
My advice combines your suggestions into a different angle. Specifically, I suggest you (and some of your coworkers) craft and draft an “official” policy for management.
See it as a way to initiate the process and the conversation with management. In other words, you will invite them to engage in a collaborative approach to address this issue, refine the specifics, and so on.
Since you noted they are reactive, not proactive, I suspect they would welcome this approach that takes the bulk of the work out of their hands.
Be encouraged; some of the best results I’ve heard reported back from women working at small employers and who followed Max Your Maternity Leave was when there was no maternity leave policy.
For example, some reported requesting and getting four weeks of paid maternity leave, without have to take from their accrued paid time off bank.
You have the opportunity to do something similar for your workplace. The Small Business Administration has a few maternity leave policy guidelines for small businesses that you could adapt.
Fit Small Business also offers a useful guide for business owners.
Present the policy as a manager bringing a business solution to an impending (and probably ongoing) personnel issue. Position the policy as smart for small business.
In whatever you propose, instead of an “in stone” plan, frame it as a starting point for discussion, with the emphasis on a collaborative effort to reach and refine the mutually agreeable terms. I’m optimistic you’ll be pleased at the overall outcome and your “biggest stress” about starting a family will be replaced by something else!