Several weeks after my son was born, I received a distressing letter in the mail indicating that my health insurance that also covered my children was about to be cancelled. I knew that this should not have been the case in my particular situation, so I reviewed my paperwork as well as information on the Department of Labor’s website and confirmed that a mistake had been made. Fortunately for us, this was resolved favorably after a face-to-face meeting with the head of out Human Resources department.
However, should I ever be in the situation to take maternity leave again (or family leave for any reason as covered by the law), there are several things that I will make sure I know and have documentation of from my employer before I take leave.
Unfortunately, not all workers are eligible to even take maternity leave. While this could be a
rant post in and of itself, that’s not my focus today. Basically, some employers are exempt from having to provide leave if they are small companies, which will affect some mothers. You also have to have worked for a company for a year in order to be eligible to take leave. Find out more about eligibility at the United States Department of Labor website.
Know the estimated dates of your leave.
I say estimated because I am well aware that babies come when they are ready; however, you can fill out the paperwork with your due date as the start date and edit it later if the baby arrives early. You should also know how much time you plan to take. Legally, you can take up to 12 weeks of leave and still be guaranteed a job, but that does not mean that your leave will be paid or even that you will have health insurance. Which leads me to my next point …
Figure out the financial aspects of your leave early on.
As soon as you can, there are several different financial things that you need to find out to plan your budget accordingly for maternity leave. First, does your company provide any paid leave? Companies in the United States are not required to provide any paid maternity leave, but some companies do provide some bit of paid leave. Mine provided six weeks of paid leave at 65%, which meant I needed to save the difference for those six weeks, plus the full 100% for the additional six weeks of leave I planned to take.
If you are taking any unpaid leave, you need to find out (and get documentation on this! See below.) if your company will require you to pay the full premiums for your health insurance – including the employers’ portion – to the health insurance company. This differs from company to company, so find out your company’s policy so you can plan accordingly.
Finally, if you have short term disability coverage, check the terms on that policy. We were able to make a claim on STD and make up a portion of the lost income that way, which helped.
Keep documentation for all communication with your Human Resources department.
Be sure to make and keep copies of all official paperwork that you submit to your HR department for your leave including your doctor’s statement. You will probably receive an email or letter letting you know that you have been approved for FMLA leave; keep a copy of this with that paperwork.
I would also highly advise asking any questions you may have about via email so that you have documentation of whatever answers you have been told in regards to your company’s policy. Create a folder in your inbox labeled Maternity Leave so you have easy access to this; you will want things easy to find and organized once the baby arrives!
The idea of being away from work from 6-12 weeks can be stressful, even when you know that you’ll be home cuddling a brand new baby. Planning accordingly ahead of time with your employer is essential to having one less thing to worry about when the baby arrives. Good luck, expecting mamas!