After you tell your boss you're pregnant, it's in your best interest to have a discussion about your maternity leave. But please don't have this convo on the spur of the moment. Take time to organize your thoughts and be prepared. Even though most companies have a maternity leave policy in place, to stay proactive and protect your job, you should consider a maternity leave contract. This will serve as the written agreement between you and your employer, and outline the terms and conditions of your maternity leave. The contract can be designed to tailor your leave specific to your needs, instead of trying to work under a one size fits all policy.
But before you dive into drafting your maternity leave contract, take some time familiarizing yourself with your rights as a pregnant employee. According to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), new parents can be eligible for 12 weeks of leave after having a baby. Each employer is different, however, and length of leaves, as well as compensation, are two big factors to take into consideration when deciding what to include in your contract.
Although the FMLA requires employers to provide some type of leave, there is a lot of wiggle room for companies. This means you may or may not be paid for your time off, or you may be required to return to work sooner than you would like. So first things first, dig through your files and read over your company's policy for maternity leave. This will give you a framework for your contract. As the Harvard Business Review pointed out, "getting the leave you want is a matter of understanding your company’s policy and then appropriately advocating for your needs."
Once you know what the terms of leave is in your office, ask yourself if this is going to work for you. Do you want more time off? Would you like to start working from home a few days a week as you ease back into the workplace? Getting your desires for your leave down on paper will help you to create a proposal to present to your boss in order to begin negotiating your leave. Think of creative ways you can work with your boss, so you are both getting a fair deal, as Parents recommended. And make sure to include that you plan to come back to work after your leave is finished to assure them you are dedicated to your job.
After you and your boss come to an agreement, you're ready to create the contract. You can go the formal route and hire an attorney, or you can use a maternity leave contract template and fill in the blanks with your specifics. Present the contract to your boss to review and sign, and file a copy in your personal records. Having this document will give your peace of mind as you prepare for your absence from work, and remind you that you are your own best advocate in life.