Emergency Reader Email: Maternity Leave Email (and other messages)

maternity-leave-voicemailMy friend F emailed today, noting that this is her last day in the office before maternity leave, and she is wondering what to put in her “out of office” message. Should she say “leave of absence” or “maternity leave”? Furthermore, she’s taking a six-month maternity leave — should she put that in her email, or will the clients (she has too many occasional ones to give each an individual head’s up) freak out if they hear “November”? (Pictured: Baby Bump Love, originally uploaded to Flickr by teefaye.)

For my $.02, I forwarded my other friend C’s out-of-office message, which says simply “I’m out of the office on maternity leave. If you need assistance, please contact my assistant at _____________.” I like this message: it’s clear that it’s maternity leave and not some sort of sabbatical or dangerous health-related thing, and while I know that C is taking six months as well, this omission from her email doesn’t seem glaring. (I’m not even sure the length of the leave is that relevant — after all, my guess is that both C and F will be checking their work email anyway while out on maternity leave — if anything needs a direct response the client will have it soon enough.  Alternatively, the OOT message can be changed — you can give your return date when it’s a month or closer.)

But I’m curious — readers, what is your take on maternity leave messaging? What do you say on your email and voicemail OOT messages? Do you think there’s a reason to be vague about the reason you’re out of the office?

Psst: Check out CorporetteMoms for more working mom discussions, as well as our pregnancy newsletter!


  1. Prompted to Post :

    I just came back to my firm from a five month maternity leave in December, and I think your suggested response is spot on. Say you are out for maternity, but don’t offer a return-to-work date. Indeed, I offered no one, including my supervising partners, a return-to-work date until my baby was nearly 3 mos. old. If it is your first, you simply will not know when you will want to come back until the baby has arrived. Some of us decide to return sooner, others later.

    • That is a good point, but the flip side of that is that the most regular question I got when I was out was, “when are you coming back?” Having my return date saved me from having to respond to those questions.

    • Diana Barry :

      I agree 100%. Don’t give the return date.

    • Associette :

      Prompted to Post, I agree – post the reason and not the time. As an associate working for a partner who took a maternity leave, but refused to tell clients that she was on leave, and did not use an auto-response. It was extremely uncomfortable and stressful for both the clients and those within the firm. Clients getting a lackluster response (from someone who was rightfully exhausted and strained by the addition of a new baby) would ask, “well where is she?!?!?” We would then have to skate around the issue. People have babies all of the time – its fine to share the news so long as the client is not left hanging.

    • I disagree about offering a return date. If I hadn’t, people would wonder if I was coming back at all. Some assumed that regardless of my return date and stopped giving me work altogether during my last month, but that’s another story. I would be upset if a great case came in for me but I was passed over for it because people didn’t know I would be back in a week (or a few weeks, or whatever). I’m for being up front, taking all the time you want, and not being shy about it.

    • Divaliscious11 :

      I think there is no need to leave a return date in your email, so long as you discuss with your partner and any client where the client may be impacted.

  2. I took a 3-month leave and simply put that I would be out of the office until _____. No reason — short and simple. I get that it may be relevant to explain why I was out, but to those who didn’t know, I didn’t necessarily think it was their business to know the reason. FWIW, I’m a fairly junior associate so the only people that would have been emailing me would have been partners that knew why I was out anyway — I didn’t get a lot of cold emails or calls from clients.

    • AgencyCounsel :

      I did something similar. I put that I would be out on extended leave and to contact my supervisor if they needed a response on a case.

  3. I agree with OP. Give the reason, not the return date. “I will be out of the officeon maternity leave starting XX/XX/XX. For immediate assistance, please contact ____”.

  4. I did not use an auto response when I was on leave. I had my iPhone with me and forwarded messages from any clients that emailed me directly without copying another associate or partner. This may not be practical for everyone, but I didn’t want people to feel like they would not be able to reach me via email while I was out on leave.

    • That’s funny, I was the opposite. I didn’t want people to feel like they COULD reach me on maternity leave! :)

      • Diana Barry :


      • Agreed! That’s what makes it a leave. I didn’t take a long one (7 weeks) but when I was out, I was OUT. Bonding with my new baby (to say nothing of recuperating from her birth) is important business, and I felt no guilt about tending to it. Anyway, it’s dangerous when we start to think of ourselves as irreplaceable. My colleagues and assistant handled things just fine during my absence.

    • I also did not use an out of office message. My admin took care of mail and phone calls, and I have a Blackberry so that I could easily forward anything that needed a response. I did not want to lose touch and felt that it did not take time away from my child to foward some messages a few times a day. Additionally, there are so many email messages where I get copied and didn’t need everyone continually reminded with an out of office bounce back, that yes, I am the one on maternity leave.

      • You should be able to set up auto-responders so that they never email the same person twice and/or do not go out when there are a certain number of people in the to field. This is pretty standard.

    • I did the same thing as Mel. It worked great for me.

  5. Agree: Indicate reason (and really, folks are happy for you), leave return date ambiguous, but give an alternative contact. For my closer, more hands-on clients, I provided my cell number and told them they could call me, and I would try to help where I could.

    And now: A threadjack. You ladies have had some good ideas about personal fragrance (yes/no/what kind). What about home fragrance? I’m putting my house on the market next week, and thinking about setting out some reed diffusers or something to add to the sensory appeal factor (like stores do). Is this a terrible idea? If not, what should I get?

    • As someone who has bought and sold a house in the last year, my two cents: Burn a linen/cotton/similarly neutral scented candle or boil some water with cinnamon sticks in it for a half hour or so before the showing, and then get rid of the evidence. When I was looking at houses to buy, visible evidence of a home fragrance source like reed diffusers just made me wonder if there was a permanent odor (pet stained carpet, mustiness, etc) that the homeowner was covering up. I think the goal should be to make your home smell clean and welcoming, but not like any identifiable or artificial scent – and without any evidence.

      Scents can also trigger memories, feelings, or reactions in potential buyers that you won’t have control over. You want potential buyers to be able to envision themselves in your home without any blocks like scents they don’t like or have negative reactions to (e.g., “this house smells like my grandma’s house” or “god, that roommate I hated always burned candles scented like X”). So that’s why I would choose linen/cotton/clean smells if you feel you need something to freshen the air.

      Good luck with your house sale!

      • Completely agree – something innocuous that just smells “clean.” (I’m sure you wouldn’t, but as an FYI to other sellers: please, please, please don’t spray and air freshener that is supposed to smell like baking cookies. It doesn’t).

        Also, for the first showing of the house that we ultimately ended up buying, the owners had classical music playing. It was great for two reasons 1) we never would have known that the entire house was wired to the sound system with volume controls in each room without that, and 2) ambiance.

      • I like to boil water with orange slices and either cloves or cinnamon stick.

    • I’d go for Yankee Candle’s pound cake scent. It’s similar to the cliche “cookies baking in the oven” scent recommended for open houses, but is a bit more difficult to identify (and IMHO doesn’t have a super-sweet or artificial vanilla element to it). It’s much easier than actually baking cookies, but alas does not result in actual tasty homemade cookies to eat after the open house. Good luck.

      • Diana Barry :

        No, no, no, no! Those of us who bake know what cookies/baked goods smell like, and it ain’t Yankee Candle.

    • I’m househunting right now. Strongly scented homes are a huge turnoff for me. At best, they are irritants – at worst, they trigger migraines. It also makes me wonder whether the seller is trying to cover up other odors like mold/mildew, cigarette smoke, wet dog, etc. If it’s warm enough, just open the windows and let the outside air in.

      • This. Any effort to make a house smell like anything in particular strikes me as suspicious. I agree that fresh air blowing through the house beforehand is your best bet.

    • We sold our house last summer, and I went throughout the house with Febreeze (not the heavily scented one, just the neutral) and sprayed all the soft surfaces every morning before we had a showing. It freshened things up, but dissipated and did not leave evidence like a candle, diffuser, etc. I also stashed some of the old school air fresheners (the kind you twist to open to your desired level of scent) in a very neutral scent in places I was certain people wouldn’t discover.

    • The citrus-oil fresheners they sell at Whole Foods – I think the brand is Citrus Magic – work really well and are made of nothing other than citrus oil. They smell like you just peeled an orange. There’s no risk of triggering sensitivities (unless I guess someone was allergic to oranges), and they merely freshen the air, they don’t overwhelm it. That’s the only kind of scent I’d suggest – otherwise you might trigger a sensitivity or seem like you’re trying to overwhelm a bad odor.

      • Citrus oils are a banned perfume ingredient in the EU for sensitivity reasons. I think the issue is people with a sensitivity to their topical application, though, so it’s probably fine.

        • Do you have a cite for that? I have a hard time believing no perfumes containing citrus oils are sold in Europe.

    • As someone who is easily offended by artificial odors (no medical reason – I just don’t like them!), and actually rejected several houses that had strong, identifiable artificial smells, my advice would be to open the windows for a few hours beforehand, or do nothing.

      If you absolutely must do something (ie, you cooked fish last night and can still smell it), boil cinnamon sticks/orange peels/cloves, etc on your stove top for a while and put it away before the open house. At least then it is the actual smell of cinnamon and not an artificial recreation. But a resounding no on candles, reeds, plug-ins, room sprays, etc.

      If you want a fresh laundry scent, get the carpets steamed and wash any curtains, blankets, slip covers, etc. This will create that “fresh laundry” scent by actually having…fresh laundry.

      • Very much agree. “Air fresheners” don’t really smell good – they just smell.

    • When I was a teenager, and we’d have unauthorized parties when my parents were out of town, we made the house smell great afterward by simmering some cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and apple slices in a pot of water. The whole house smelled subtly of apple pie. This could make your house smell good without being chemical-ly or aggressively odiferous.

      • That sounds delightful even if I’m not showing the house! I’ll have to try that.

        And thanks for the classical music suggestion–that’s a great idea!

  6. Nonny - aka Vegas, Baby :


    You ladies are all so good at travel advice – now it is my turn!

    I am going to Vegas for the first time ever at the end of May, for 4 days, staying at the Luxor. My boyfriend and I are planning to rent a car and go to the Hoover Dam, see a couple of shows, do some shopping, do some good eating, etc. Neither of us are really gamblers or big partyers.

    The city where I live has very little good shopping so I am planning to make the most of Vegas from that perspective (subject to silly Canada Customs spending limits, sheesh). So first question – are the outlets really worth the time, and if so, which ones are worth a visit? Which mall is the best (based on internet research, I am thinking The Forum, perhaps)?

    Second question – we are planning to see two shows – one Cirque du Soleil and one other. Anyone seen anything really spectacular lately that you would recommend?

    Third question – we love our food. I have been looking at the Chowhound posts on Vegas but have any of you had any fantastic foodie experiences in Vegas that you would recommend?

    Any other great hints and tips?

    Thank you in advance!

    • My husband and I went to Vegas for 4 days last year and basically ate our way through the city.
      Food: For cheap food, hit up Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar. It’s in the MGM. GREAT burgers. Todd English’s Pub in the new Aria casino had an amazing lobster roll and a ton of different beers on tap. Good place for lunch one day (and Aria is pretty cool to go gamble at).
      The two times I’ve been to Mesa Grill, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised. I was skeptical of Bobby Flay’s place because I figured he was over-exposed, but the food was very impressive. I’d highly recommend going there (it’s right at the entrance to the Forum Shops in Caesar’s).

      Have fun! I’m so jealous…talking about it makes me want to go back!

      • As far as shows go, I would highly recommend Ka or O–Zumanity and Love were pretty disappointing.

        • O and Mystere were gorgeous. Mystere was basically just O without water though and a cheaper price…

    • Anonymous :

      My Canadian friend is doing EXACTLY what you are doing (but staying at the Venetian).

      “Fashion Show Mall” is pretty good, typical mall stores. Luxury/upscale = Bellagio shops (be sure and catch their fountain show, WOW!).

      Food is pretty pricey there, as is water — and be ready for NO coffee maker in the room (don’t touch the stuff on top of the fridge, it’s on a motion sensor and you’ll get charged).

      Renting scooters was such a blast. Casino cards are great souvenirs.


    • Bk foette :

      Fashion show mall is great — but not an outlet. There is the “premium” outlets on Charleston just west of the I15 or the outlet mall in Primm (about 45 minutes south of Las Vegas). The Charleston mall is outdoors, so can be hot — though early may should still be ok. The Primm mall is indoors.

      For food: I was local for a long time, but did not do much strip dining. My all time favorite Thai place is there — Archis — they do have a few different locations.
      Also, they have great mexican food — the best being Bonito Michoacan or Lindo Michoacon — owned by the same family.
      Lastly, Tinocos, which is in a downtown casino, is great too. Also, downtown now has a zip line you can do over crowds of people — cool to watch, I have yet to do it.
      Have fun!

    • Fashion Show Mall right on the strip is pretty good. I also went to the Premium Outlets there, they are worth it (there are 2 locations, both pretty close to the strip).

      Don’t forget to visit downtown Las Vegas! I like the casinos there much more than the ones on the strip – less glitzy, more fun IMO.

      I can’t recall having eaten anything particularly interesting in Vegas, but there’s an emerging restaurant scene.

      The Lonely Planet for Vegas is actually pretty good, I’d recommend you pick it up.

    • If you are a Beatles fan at all, I HIGHLY recommend LOVE at the Mirage. It is all around fabulous–the way they did the music, the dancing and tricks, etc. I have seen it three times and will see it again when I’m in Vegas this summer. Seriously can’t express how much I love this show.

      If you are not a Beatles fan, and are interested in something a little racy, Zumanity is also really, really good. The tricks/dancing are incredible. It’s verrrrry sexy, with lots of topless people, and incredibly entertaining.

    • Food: my brother/SIL are huge foodies and RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay is their all-time favorite place.

      Shows: For Cirque shows, I’ve seen a few different ones and Mystere is still my favorite.

      Shopping: I haven’t been to the outlets but Fashion Show is a mall with plenty of good shops. The Forum at Caesars has great shopping too, and is overall a really fun experience.

      Have fun! Allow yourself plenty of time to get between hotels — just because two hotels are next to each other on the Strip doesn’t mean they’re close. It’s a crazy fun city, even for those of us who don’t like to gamble — although I must say, getting free drinks while hanging out at the video poker or slot machines can be a lot of fun.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      I saw “O” a few years ago and it is spectacular. If it still exists, the Chris Angel Cirque show was horrible. I seriously wanted both my money and my time back from that show.

      There is a bar in Mandalay Bay called Red Square that is wonderful. I’ve only had drinks (vodka-based martini drinks) but I hear the food is excellent too. Definitely stop by for a drink though!

      Have a fantastic time!

    • Reserve a day for grand canyon.

    • Nonny - aka Vegas, Baby :

      Thanks, everyone, for your tips – I am doing my research and will give a report when I get back.


  7. AtlantaAttorney :

    I agree with “I am currently out of the office on maternity leave. For assistance in my absence, please contact __________.”

    No return date is necessary. Indicating you’re on maternity leave gives them enough information to know that you’ll be out for a while so don’t expect you back tomorrow, but that you will return so don’t take their business elsewhere.

    • I was out for three months. This is exactly what I did. I believe this is the norm. People expect that you’ll be gone for a while if you tell them you’re on maternity leave.

  8. Anon from Chicago :

    I said I am currently out of the office on maternity leave. If you need imediate assistance, please contact another attorney on the matter or my assitant ___ .

  9. Anonymous :

    I think the suggested email is a good one. The reason, no firm return date, and an indication that the assistant can reach you if necessary.

    No matter the reason, regardless of the gender of the lawyer, six months sounds like a long time.

  10. Relatedly, does anyone have a link to a chart online that lists all the biglaw maternity leave policies – i.e. how many weeks paid leave? I can’t find how many my firm offers on our internal website, but I remember seeing charts online at some point.

    Please forgive my ignorance – It also sounds like the ladies here typically take 6 months for maternity leave – is that all paid leave? Some paid and some unpaid? Is 6 months normal? I’m just starting to think about these things and am quickly realizing I know almost nothing!

    • Don’t have the link, sorry, but yes, many of the top big firms offer ~6 months paid.

    • My small-ish firm is currently revisiting their policy after the associates committee spoke up and said “it’s outdated.” Ours is 4 weeks paid with no provision for adding on unpaid or vacation/sick (and that is after you put in two-years with the firm); 6 months seems like forever – that would be great!

      That said, a chart would be/would have been helpful for us (not sure if it’s too late…).

    • Diana Barry :

      I think the big firms now have 14-18 weeks paid; people usually take the rest unpaid (using up vacation first) to round out to 6 months. Maybe try ATL? I think I recall seeing charts there at some point, not recently though.

    • Don’t know of any chart. My midlaw firm gives 3 months paid, and will work with attorneys on an individual basis who want additional unpaid leave or who would like to come back on a part-time (and part-pay) schedule. I think that’s not amazingly generous, but margins are probably tighter here than in biglaw, and it balances the profit motive against a moderately humane attitude.

    • Diana Barry :

      Found the Yale Law women site, which has a bunch of statistics


    • I am jealous – jealous, I say! – to hear about 4-6 months maternity leave. I’m at a smallish firm where we get not.one.day.of.maternity.leave. For real. Use your vacation up and then go unpaid (no short-term disability policy provided by the firm either). We’re just under the numbers to trigger FMLA (if I were a betting woman, I’d bet that’s intentional with the firm’s all-male partners!).

      All of this ranting aside, I think Kat’s e-mail suggestion is spot on. Say you are out and who the person can contact. I don’t think there’s much good that can come from giving a return date to most clients.

      • Same here. Not to mention my firm has a strict policy that you cannot use out-of-office messages on your email – i.e. you must check it Every. Single. Day.

    • North Shore :

      I work for the fed government. There is no paid maternity leave. You can cobble together your sick leave and your vacation time to make a maternity leave. My DH is a fed, also, and they let him transfer leave to me. For my first child, I ended up with about 6 months paid leave. With my second, I took off 8 months, but it was mostly unpaid because I had used up all my leave with the first child.

      • AgencyCounsel :

        Same here, I also work for the feds. I had enough sick and annual leave saved up over the years to take 3 1/2 months off and still have plenty left over to take vacations and days off here and there.

    • I was the only mom in my biglaw office who didn’t take six months (I took three, which was right for me). If we act like there’s something wrong with taking six months (like not telling people), people will believe there is something wrong with it.

      To answer your question, I had 12 weeks paid; if I wanted more, I could take it unpaid.

    • http://abovethelaw.com/2008/02/featured-survey-results-maternity-leave/

      • Thanks Mel. I did see that, but I was wondering if anything has changed since then – that post is from Feb 2008, before the economic downturn, firm collapses, and changes in comp at biglaw. It feels like a different practice now, at least to me. Hopefully, maternity leave hasn’t been cut below those 2008 levels as a cost-saving measure. Diana Barry’s Yale link is also interesting, but I’d love to see the data behind those stats.

        • Unfortunately, that is the most recent survey ATL has done. I don’t think a lot has changed though. Firms haven’t cut back on leave and most haven’t felt the need to be more generous. I do know that WSGR is an exception though and has been progressively more and more generous in terms of family/women’s issues, despite the economy.

  11. My big firm firm gives 4.5 paid, up to another month and a half unpaid.

    • Seriously? My midlaw gives 12 weeks paid and I thought that was stingy compared to some of my friends at other firms! Wow, I literally could not be more incorrect on this thread — I would have never thought to not give the return date and I thought putting in the fact that I was on maternity leave was inappropriate! Sheesh — shows what I know. :0

      • Sorry — I mean 4.5 months! Not weeks!

      • Praxidike :

        LOL, my small law gives ZERO paid, but I can take three months unpaid. That’s generous to the extent they’ll hold my job for three months. It’s not generous to the extent that when I do have a kid, we’ll have to be prepared to go without my salary for that time. Thankfully we live on my husband’s salary, mostly, so I guess we’ll just forgo saving for a few months.

  12. I’m a recent young partner (first female) at my firm and am wondering if all the big and midlaw firms give partners paid maternity leave. We gave 12 wks paid to associates, but I don’t think they’re going to want to give me any paid leave as a partner.

    Do you know if your firms give partners paid maternity leave?

    • C'est la vie :

      My firm gives *longer* paid leave to non-equity partners than associates. I’m not sure how it works for equity partners or which situation would apply in your case.

    • I am partner in a mid-size midwestern firm. Had two children while a partner. My firm gives associates up to 12 wks paid/12wks unpaid. We supposedly get “maternity leave” as partners (i.e., we can stay out as long as we want), but it sure as heck was (negatively) reflected in my compensation at the end of the year. In other words, at the end of the day, it was not “paid”. As far as I could tell, I was paid based on my productivity for the year, no pro-rating for the time off.

      I took off a little more than 3 months with each child. I was itching to get back at that point with each.

      • Thanks. I know a big firm across the street from us gives generous leave to partners (equity). I am minority equity, so a jr. partner.

        I asked one partner I trusted if there was a policy and, of course, there is not. I’ve had 3 kids as an associate and was told I’d better wait until my youngest was out of diapers to have another. (I’m 34, so I can’t wait that long.)

        Of course, when I announced to one the partners I was expecting #3, he told me “We’ll have to figure out what to do about your partnership thing.”

        The open question is an easy way for the firm to hold something over your head.

  13. C'est la vie :

    I think saying out of office for maternity leave without date of return is appropriate. Shows you have other commitments / priorities besides work (as it should be) — enforce your work /life boundaries!

    My midlaw firm offers 3 months paid for associates and then can take additional unpaid under FMLA if eligible. Billable hour requirement is prorated for amount of time out on leave. For bonus / advancement decisions they annualize the amount of work you did during non-leave period to calculate annual figures.

    • I would urge everyone thinking that they will be checking emails while on maternity leave to leave an out of office, maternity leave, no return date message at the beginning of your leave. If everything goes as planned, you can change or delete it. If (knock wood) anything goes wrong and you or the baby have complications, you have not set up the expectation that you will be available and emails will not be sitting unanswered in your account while you are in neonatal intensive care (or fighting a temperature of 104 because you have mastitis).

  14. 6 months! Wow. I’m due in two months and will get 6 weeks of disability (half pay) and can take another 6 weeks unpaid. My husband (at biglaw) gets 4 weeks paid, which he can’t reasonably take without people Noticing.

    Anther point! Be REALLY careful about working when on leave. I was told by HR that if I did any work while on leave I was effectively giving up my right to be on leave, and thus would have to return to work. This includes replying to any email or checking in with the office. The logic being if I’m capable of working, I should be at work.

    • Funny logic. The ability to shoot off a quick email does not equate to the ability to be at the office all day…

      • Still, it’s best to check. I’m not in HR, but I regularly go to SHRM meetings and that sounds like standard HR logic to me.

      • That’s because they class her as disability leave. Disabled = unable to work. Firms pull this kind of crap on purpose.

  15. Another Anon :

    What if your email system requires that you put a return date to turn on the Out-of-office alert?

    Ours will state:

    I am out of the office beginning X/X/X and will return X/X/X.

    Below that is the option to enter a personal message.

    I work in government, and don’t have an assistant. In the personal message, I was thinking of writing – “I am away on materity leave. If you need assistance with (a professional question), please contact (my supervisor), at ______. If you need to speak with me personally, I can be reached at (cell phone).

    But I’m not sure what to put as the return date. I think I know when I’m going back, but I’ll have the option of taking more unpaid leave, and I just don’t know if I’ll be able to afford to take it.

    I’ll also have my computer at home to occassionaly check email – our inboxes are tiny and will fill up in a couple weeks if left unemptied.

    • If you have no choice, you have no choice. I would put the earlier date and then, if you’d like to take additional unpaid leave, talk to your boss about it and then extend the out of office.

    • Don’t put your cell phone. Instead, tell your supervisor that he can, at his discretion, give out your cell phone to people who genuinely need to reach you.

      I’d just put a ballpark return date, like the last day of the month in which you think you’ll return. If you end up returning later, you can always change it or have someone change it for you.

      • Another Anon :

        I thought about putting no cell phone, but we have staff in our office that are less than helpful when trying to get personal information to you. If they need to talk to you, they will only talk to YOU. They won’t do any investigation at all to figure out how to get ahold of you. If HR needs to contact me about my benefits or leave, I need to make it as easy as possible for them to do so.

        I once had a raise not processed for a month because the form I needed to sign bounced back when I was on vacation (again, the tiny inboxes), and no one thought to resend it or call me.

        I trust my co-workers to understand the difference between personal and professional, but in case they don’t, I will be keeping my cell on silent, and only checking once every other day or so. And then, only responding to messages that I personally need to deal with, and forwarding all other messages to a co-worker.

  16. I agree that the general notice that you are out due to maternity leave is appropriate. If you’re going to be gone for six months, you might want to leave out the return date, not because it scares people but because it is so far in the future.

    I would add that your message should state whether or not the mailbox will be monitored and if not monitored the message should caution the sender that any information left in that mailbox will be overlooked and to make sure that they contact X person.

    On a similar note, I routinely get 300-500 emails a week when on vacation. So if you are going to be gone that long, I’d ask an assistant/peer to go in and clean it out and make sure that nothing is missed. If you come back from leave with 2000+ messages, it will be depressing and time-consuming to go through all those messages.

  17. Out of curiosity, does anyone know the fed government’s maternity leave policy?

    • TheOtherCoast :

      There is no maternity leave. It is FMLA. You can take your accrued leave paid.

      • Seventh Sister :

        The amount of sick leave v. annual leave you can use varies based on hospital stay / kind of birth (c-section or no).

  18. Nice Girl, No Corner Office :

    Semi-related threadjack: I’m currently entertaining an offer from a small firm, and I don’t believe that they’ve ever had a maternity policy or had any need to have one (I will be the only female attorney, although there are female assistants, so there might be one).

    Either way, they’re not big enough to require FMLA. I hope to start a family within a year. I’m not worried about taking a long time off, as we anticipate my husband to be the primary caretaker, and I will be getting Short Term Disability, but should I bring it up in the offer negotiations? I’m afraid that doing so will cause them to shy away or think that I’m not going to stay, but I guess, since there is no official policy, they wouldn’t really be obligated to hold my job if I took any time off. (I don’t expect many firms would do that, but I have no way to really confirm.)

    BTW, thanks to everyone who responded to my comments yesterday. I’m leaning towards feeling better about it. :)

    • Diana Barry :

      Urgh. I probably wouldn’t – it might (if they were feeling uncharitable or jerky) cause them to rescind the offer in the worst case, and in any case might leave doubt in their minds as to whether you are really “serious” about the job. You might ask them if they have an employee handbook or list of policies that would apply to you – that might get at the issue indirectly. But I wouldn’t mention leave – not counting chickens before they’re hatched and all that.

      • I wouldn’t either. Once they have you, they pretty much have to give you leave to be “market comp.” But if they are considering hiring you, I think that would reflect negatively.

    • How important is the job offer? Do you have other options? I personally would not want to work for a firm that would pull an offer if I asked about maternity leave. However, I have a job (such as it is) and have the luxury of being choosy – I know that isn’t necessarily the case for everyone!

      In my position, I would ask and let the firm show it’s true colors. If they aren’t going to be supportive of your maternity leave, they probably aren’t going to be supportive of you taking time off for a sick kid, or to go school conferences, or soccer games, etc.

      • I would find out the policy before taking the job, one way or another. Your plans regarding the amount of leave you want may change between now and when you are pregnant. I think most of us think 6-8 weeks sounds like a long time, but it feels very short when you are home with an infant. Personally, I will not work anywhere that would prohibit me from taking at least 5 months off for leave until I am done having kids.

        • Nice Girl, No Corner Office :

          Five months! I don’t mean to be rude, but I plan to be supporting my family with my work.

    • I’m dissenting again, but I’d bring it up if it is important enough to you that it could affect your decision. If they tell you there’s no maternity leave and you can only have 6 weeks of unpaid disability leave max, would you still take the job?

  19. I also did not set up an away message. I was able to “prepare” clients during my pregnancy for my leave and schedule discovery deadlines, etc., so that there were none pending during my leave, if at all possible. Of course there were some things that came up anyway, but I was able to either forward those to the appropriate partner or deal with them myself from home. This method served two purposes – I was never disconnected from any case so as to lose any important role in it, and it kept me connected to the office and world outside of the baby, which was important for me because it was difficult to just shut off work, bar association activities, and the like, and stay at home after being so active outside the house. I think it kept me from feeling too isolated from the “real world” as it were.

  20. I’ll be going on maternity leave in 7 weeks (not like I’m counting the days…). I get 12 weeks. Unpaid. We are big enough to trigger FMLA but my mid-size firm is incredibly stingy. You can get paid if you have been here longer — but only for a few weeks and the pay is spread over all of your paychecks over the year you return. So you get no $ while you are home.

    For example, my colleague just went on leave and she gets 4 weeks of the 12 paid (she’s worked here 4 years, so 4 weeks), but won’t see a dime of it until it trickles in over the next year in each paycheck. Since I’ve been at the firm less than 2 years, I get zero.

    Needless to say, I will not be doing a drop of work from home during my leave!

    • Doesn’t FMLA require a minimum of 4 months (16 weeks, I think)?

      • Nice Girl, No Corner Office :

        Federally, it requires 12 weeks, but a lot of states have it extended to 16.

  21. For those of you living in CA, don’t forget to look into the state laws regarding bonding leave (for moms and dads) that can be used anytime in the first year after the birth. I used it to add 6 weeks of semi-paid leave on top of the pay my firm provided (12 weeks), so I got a total of 12 weeks at full pay, 6 at disability pay ($987/week) and the remainder I took unpaid.

  22. I like the idea of leaving the message short and specific, as well as adding contact information for any clients who tend to panic. It’s a good filter.

  23. I’d stick to Kat’s friend’s message for maternity leave. For holidays though I do the opposite….I say ” I’ll be back on x date” but I never give the start date.

    I’m curious and this is maybe a regional/ country thing ….how many ladies would check email regardless of length of maternity leave? In Asia, one would not. Is it expected that one would do so in the US?

  24. Speaking of maternity leave, could we please have a post on dressing appropriately for the office while pregnant. I’m pregnant with #2 but I find so many of the maternity wear offerings out there office inappropriate – too low cut, too short and just unprofessional looking. I don’t need to wear suits to the office everyday but something professional looking would be nice.

  25. The absolute BEST leave message ever was from my former work colleague, who sent an email out to about 20 people (who were all cooperating on the project), “My water just broke, so I will not be able to handle this issue for the next few weeks.”

    She came back to work after 6 but was working from home after 2. Of course, she had a SAHH…

    I am planning on taking full advantage of the european leave policy and take a full year off next time around. I get full pay for 12 weeks and then the governmental max payout (around 2k/month) for the remaining time.

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