Get clear on your company’s maternity leave policy. Under the Family Medical Leave act employers must allow new parents, including dads, to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in the year after a child’s birth. Unfortunately this only applies to companies with 50 or more employees, and employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior, but individual companies may have additional policies in place. While companies aren’t required to let you break up your 12 weeks, many do.
Save up your leave. You may be able to use unused sick or vacation days or disability coverage to lengthen your leave and paychecks.
Negotiate and advocate. Come prepared with your company’s maternity leave policy and and a plan for how your duties might be covered while you’re out. Instead of asking directly for more time and money, start with a general question, “is it possible to consider restructuring my maternity leave?” You might find that your boss or Human Resources director offers up more than what you might have asked for (it can happen)!
Consider working from home. It’s not going to be possible to work from home with yourself as the sole caregiver of a newborn– they’re just too needy and distracting. But you may be able to find a relative, babysitter or retiree in the neighborhood to help watch the baby while you work at a reasonable price, which is still better than having to dress up and go to an office.
Update your insurance. Before baby is a perfect time to evaluate your health insurance coverage. It might make more sense to move yourself and baby to your partner’s plan, for instance, or you may be able to get better benefits or pay less under a newer plan created after the Affordable Care Act.
Update your resume and address book. A lot of women go on maternity leave planning to return and change their minds. It’s smart to seek out recommendations, catalogue your achievements and save samples of your work before you go on leave.