Hi Boss Mamas!
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably left your job for a few weeks at some point to have a baby. If you’re like me, the rare moments that everyone was clean and fed were spent trying to figure out how to tie a Moby wrap, not reading the fine print on maternity leave.
Attorney and fellow MHM member Parveen Tumber did some digging into what an expecting mother should expect from her employer in regards to maternity leave. Here’s what she found.
Disclaimer – THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Taking this article as legal advice would be about the same as taking medical advice from your toddler. (And how wonderful would it be if candy actually DID cure everything.) Legal advice should always come from a lawyer, not a blogger. Got it? Good. Onward!
Know your basic rights.
“First of all, you should know what your basic rights are,” Parveen said. She recommends scheduling a meeting with your HR department and asking them to explain to you all of your family leave rights and benefits.
Here’s a nice infographic to summarize what you’re entitled to in terms of paid benefits and job protection. The job protection part only applies to businesses who have 50 or more employees.
You’ll notice that benefits start before baby is even born, which leads us to the first thing no one told you about maternity leave.
Benefits start 4 weeks before delivery.
At 36 weeks, you are legally considered disabled as a condition of pregnancy and can collect disability.
A doctor can put you on disability sooner than the 36 week mark if necessary, but even with an easy stroll to the finish line you are allowed to take the last four weeks off and collect disability due to your pregnancy.
Bonding time can be used intermittently.
Three months after my first child was born, I had a week long business conference to attend (the same conference where I had my breast-pumping fiasco, you can read about that in “7 Tips For Pumping at Work”) Instead of hiring a nanny, my husband saved a week of his bonding leave so that three months later he could stay with the baby while I was gone.
Parveen used the intermittent clause to ease back into work one week at a time every few weeks. “You can use one week by itself only once, and the rest you have to use in two-week chunks.”
It is possible to get paid maternity leave even if you are self-employed.
“If you and your husband are self-employed, you should buy disability insurance through a private insurer. Unfortunately, none of the private insurers I spoke with offered maternity coverage.” In order to collect maternity leave, you have to pay into disability through the California Employment Development Department.
This route has its pros and cons. You must pay into it for two fiscal quarters before you can file a claim. That gives you enough time to hear their tiny heartbeat before you enroll. Once you enroll in elective coverage, you cannot cancel for two years and it’s impossible for you to know before enrollment what your premiums are going to be.
Saving for maternity leave.
As a self-employed business mom, job protection isn’t an issue… unless you consider firing yourself. Which I have.
In that case, the most predictable and dependable way to collect maternity leave would be to set aside 15% of your income every month from the time you start planning to get pregnant until you reach the 36 week mark. By putting that money into a separate “maternity leave” account, you’ll have enough saved up to avoid income interruption and the money stress that goes with it. God knows you’ll be losing enough sleep already.
So instead of counting the work hours you’re missing and wondering how you’ll manage to pay the bills, spend those first magical weeks counting fingers and toes and wondering “how can we be out of diapers again?!?”
Got maternity leave questions? Post them to the Facebook page so our amazing attorney MHM members can answer them!
Emma Fulenwider is our MHM team writer, covering the many aspects of Mom-preneur life. A mother of two and memoir writer by trade, she runs Cedar Pen Life Stories from her home in Sacramento.