Pregnancy and a New Job: Maternity Leave

One of my friends recently shared some amazing news! She’s pregnant with her first child! Oh, and she just started a brand new job a few months ago which is exciting all in itself. But, I’m about to be the bearer of bad stressful news in hopes that this will help some of you in the future.

Just because you're pregnant at a new job doesn't mean you have to panic!

Just because you’re pregnant and starting a new job doesn’t mean you have to panic!

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave time each year. All insurance benefits must remain in place during this time and employees are entitled to return to their same or an equivalent position once their leave is up. This is what many women use when they say they’re going on maternity leave. Other times this might be used are if you or someone in your family falls ill. But, for the sake of a personal story, I’m going to stick with the lovely ladies going on maternity leave.

While FMLA is very helpful, my poor friend has found herself in a bit of a predicament. In order to be eligible, the employee must have worked 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of the leave. That means in order for her to use this time she must have already been working at her agency for at least a year. Also, this wouldn’t include any sick time or paid leave she took. Those 1,250 hours require you to physically be doing your job. Well, if you can do any sort of basic math you know that that’s not going to happen. She found out her exciting news the week after she was hired and no matter how many times you twist the numbers, 9 months will never equal 12 months.

So, what’s a glowing pregnant mommy supposed to do in a situation like this?

Talk to your supervisor. First things first, tell your supervisor about your new little bundle of joy. I know this can be scary, especially if you’re not in a permanent position yet, but they need to know. It’s much better that you tell them instead of them realizing a month or two down the line when they see that belly bump. This way, you can discuss options early on instead of waiting till the last minute when it’s too late. Honesty and openness is key to a great working relationship regardless of the situation.

Build up your vacation time. Don’t take any unneeded vacation days just because you feel like it. The vacation and sick time that you build up might be a lifesaver when it’s time to actually have your little one. If you can avoid missing work for any reason with the knowledge that you’ll use it later on, do this.

Look into applying for temporary disability. My fabulous pregnant friend actually clued me into this one! In New Jersey, you may be eligible for temporary disability benefits. It requires you and your doctors to fill out some paperwork, but it may provide payable benefits for up to four week before the expected delivery date and up to six weeks after the delivery. Research the temporary disability laws in your state, and the steps to be approved, as an alternate option.

Consider your options, needs, and wants. Do you want to put your career on hold for a little bit and stay home with your child or are you looking to get right back in the game? Maybe you want to stay home, but financially you can’t afford it. Perhaps your significant other is going to be a stay at home parent instead. Make sure to openly discuss your wants and needs in terms of balancing your family life and career. Not having FMLA may impact your ability to stay out for as long as you want. It may also help you decide that now’s the time to take that much needed break and raise your family. Regardless, make sure to truly consider all of your options to help ensure that you, your new baby, and your family are as healthy and happy as possible.

Don’t panic! This is the most important thing to do. Having a child and starting a family is an amazing and wonderful experience, albeit still stressful at times. (I’m not working from personal experience here, but my sister and sister-in-law let me know that it’s not always a walk in the park). Don’t let work stress become so large you forget the big picture. You will figure it all out and do what’s best for your family. In the mean time, get ready for that little bundle of joy who is about to never let you sleep in for the next 18 years of your life!

Now it’s your turn! How do you feel about the options given to pregnant women at work?

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