Negotiating Maternity Leave… Before the Baby’s On Board

Baby on Board, originally uploaded to Flickr by haven't the slightest.Can you negotiate maternity leave benefits before you get pregnant — or even during the job interview process? SHOULD you? I’ve gotten a number of questions about this recently, and I thought it might be an interesting topic.  We’ve talked about how to announce your pregnancy at work, how to survive your first trimester, and how to leave an “out of the office” message for maternity leave — but not this. (Pictured.)

2016 Update: you may also want to check out our discussion on designing your maternity leave over at CorporetteMoms. 

I have a few thoughts on this:

a) I really wish this is something that ALL women asked about. Heck, all PEOPLE asked about. Not only is it incredibly important for the family dynamic, but for the workplace dynamic too. If you don’t plan to get pregnant but work in a small office with lots of younger women — know that everyone else’s maternity leave may affect your work burden as well. If you DO plan to get pregnant, you should know your rights — particularly if you should be so lucky to weight multiple job offers.  Of course: plans change. And, of course: no one wants to bring it up in a job interview.

b) The proper way to do it, I suppose, is to inquire about health benefits. When do they kick in? What is considered a preexisting condition? Do you have any disability coverage? (You may want to consider getting some yourself, before you get pregnant, in case bed rest is required or something during the pregnancy itself.) And in the midst of all that, ask about maternity leave benefits.

c) Know your rights before you go in.  As notes, “The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 grants all parents the same 12 weeks (it’s all considered family leave for fathers and adoptive parents). You can begin the 12 weeks before you give birth, but then you’ll have less time afterward.” The FMLA only applies to companies with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.  (So: consider asking how many employees work at the company during the initial interview stage.)

d) If you negotiate at all, try to negotiate for extra paid vacation time (perhaps that rolls over every year), as suggested in this WSJ article.

Readers — have you negotiated maternity leave (either for future maternity leave benefits, or right before you went on leave)?  For those of you in smaller offices (particularly those outside the FMLA guidelines), what does maternity leave look like for you and/or your coworkers?


  1. momentsofabsurdity :

    A woman who worked at my office negotiated maternity leave (or rather, inquired as to our maternity leave policy, and negotiated one that became a companywide policy when she learned we didn’t have one – much too small for FMLA) when the job had been offered to her.

    I don’t know if my boss LOVED it (there was a reason there hadn’t been a mat leave policy in place, I think) but I thought it was quite prudent of her. She was 30ish when hired and went on to have a baby about a year later. I do have to say, while grossly unfair, it did give off the impression that she took the job for the maternity leave benefits (this perception was not aided by the fact that her maternity leave started quite literally the day the policy allowed it to, ie, after one full year of work with the company).

    It is certainly something I’d inquire about if I was considering taking a job and also planning on kids. I would rather discuss this when I have the most leverage (ie, when I’m not pregnant, am already at the bargaining table, and know they want me) than when I have the least (already pregnant, unlikely to leave for another job) so it makes sense to me to ask about it as part of the offer stage.

    • Susan (edna_mode_nyc) :

      Did she do good work prior to and after returning from maternity leave? And was she organized about transitioning projects to others when she left for maternity leave? I hope that that would be enough to offset that impression some might have had.

      At the very least, she put something in place that benefits other existing employees and future employees.

      • I have extreme narcolepsy and sometimes have to sleep for months at a time. So when I am looking for a new job I totally negotiate materinity leave adn then just take 12 weeks of naps. if someone asks where my baby is I simply tell them to watch the next episode of 16 and pregnant to find out. As I’m 42 that leaves them utterly perplexed, but as we learned yesterday, it’s not nice to pry into one’s gestational status.

        • Susan (edna_mode_nyc) :

          Yes, but if we cut off your toe, will that wake you?

        • Are you seriously mocking actual medical conditions? What is your issue? Yes, I am being aggressive-aggressive and openly hostile because that is just way too many levels of immature, rude and discourteous. Go away.


            Really, that’s like me complaining you are being insensitive by your name Godzilla since Godzilla was mutated by nuclear testing and the whole Japan nuclear fiasco that just occured and how you’re soo insensitive. You really need to lighten up and stop thinking that it’s your way or hte highway. Cause frankly your way is mean, aggressive and sooo not as fun.

        • I find this hilarious, and think it’s a shame you Godzilla are so openly hostile. Really, your offended by a narcoleptsy joke? What is every medical condition off the table, like balding, or small breasts.

          This is that mean girl mentality that is what people are referring to by you regulars. You are not the morality police and frankly, lighten up.

          • I don’t know…it does kind of feel like trolling when people come on here and mock serious questions that readers – whether regular or not – are asking in good faith. It doesn’t seem so much like Godzilla is offended by the narcolepy joke as by the whole tone of the comment. This is a community. Regulars or not, coming on here to troll (which is what the narcolepy comment feels like, frankly) is not really conducive to that. It’s one thing when people are hurt by or disagree with comments and speak up about it; it’s another thing entirely to post things just for the sake of mocking/sarcasm/sh*ts and giggles.

          • You are highly underestimating and not giving enough worth to the “Giggles” category in life.

          • Please don’t tell me small bre*sts are a medical issue; I’ll be at the doctor every day for the rest of my life!

          • karenpadi :

            I agree with Godzilla. It is immature, rude and discourteous to mock medical conditions. It is also inappropriate to joke about fraudulently claiming pregnancy and maternity leave. If you think Woah’s jokes are funny, might I suggest the Above the Law comments section?

            Godzilla isn’t being a mean-girl–she’s calling Woah’s inappropriate comment out. It sounds like you have no problem dishing it out but you can’t take any kind of criticism yourself.

          • Dear PANDA,

            Mocking people for sh*its and giggles totally makes you a jerk and a serious mean girl. If you don’t like it here, no one is forcing you to stay. Why don’t you go hang out at SFTU Corpor3tt3? You’d fit right in there.

            Love, Jo.

          • E.B. White :

            Can I just make a small request? When we are being snarky, would it be possible to still respect the rules of spelling and grammar? I’ve noticed a trend: the more hostile the comment, the less proper the punctuation. If we’re going to go down this path, can we at least agree to proofread?

          • There’s a semi-regular commenter on here who has narcolepsy and posted a little while ago for help dealing with that condition. I realize that it often feels like “ugh, is EVERYTHING off the table?” but I’m with Jo March and Godzilla. I’ll admit to making inappropriate jokes with my husband in private (where part of the joke is that we realize how inappropriate it is) but it’s another thing to go someplace public and make fun of things people have no control over where you have no idea who might be reading.

          • Wait! When did small breasts become a medical condition? Does that mean augmentation surgery is covered by my plan?

        • Mean girls :

          Godzilla told a specific person to go away.

          Woah made a funny story about maternity and narcolepsy in relation to the whole “stay out of ma uterus” arguments of before. Whether you dislike it or did not find it funny, Woah in no way attacked anyone, especially a specific person, like the two regulars are now.

          Hence the regular girls seem to have this “my way or the highway” attitude. How you justify it’s the same is ridiculous.

          • Obvious Sock Puppet is obvious.

          • Are you pregnant?

          • Yes, I am telling the Woah/PANDA/anons to go away. They’re annoying. They don’t have to, of course. I do my fair share of unfunny joking on this site but these ladies are taking it to a whole ‘nother level. You have a problem with my attitude, OH WELLS.

          • Are you pregnant?


            I think you are annoying and unfun and frankly a mean girl.

            Maybe my whole ‘nother level is just annoying to you cause it’s soo high up you can not possibly fathom these great heights.

            In any case, I am not everyone agreeing with me, so I have a PANDA pack and plan to stay. This is probably at least 10 times now you and DC Jenny have ganged up on me and others recently and I will have none of it.

            Also, narcolepsy jokes are funny and are if one person on the internet has it, sorry babes, no hard feelings. You can make PANDA jokes to me all the time and I promise to not take it personally.

            Also, I think this attitude from some of you could be categorized as obviously pregnant.

        • Alanna of Trebond :

          This was hilarious. Let’s not lose our humor guys.

      • momentsofabsurdity :

        No, she wasn’t/isn’t a great worker. By the time of her maternity leave rolling around, she didn’t have many projects because she worked so slowly and has so many questions that people mostly ended up doing the things they assigned to her themselves, to save time. She also had a difficult pregnancy (which must be incredibly tough) so started working from 10-2 without informing anyone, including her supervisors, that she was cutting back her hours – just coming in at 10 and leaving at 2, every day.

        It’s unfortunate because I do think what she was asking for was completely reasonable with regards to maternity leave, and I do support more woman and family friendly office policies in our very male dominated company, but I think now unfortunately, among the (entirely male) senior management in my office, there is a perception that we better not hire another pregnant person — when the reality is, we just shouldn’t hire another pregnant person with a terrible work ethic.

        • You may avoid hiring a pregnant person, but any female in a fairly wide age range is a pregnancy risk. So, will the office avoid hiring women altogether?

          • momentsofabsurdity :

            Honestly? Maybe. I’m a bit young to get pregnant (and unmarried). This woman was the first young, married woman of childbearing age they had hired in maybe 10-15 years. I honestly don’t know if they would do it again which makes me really disappointed, but I am too junior to do/say anything about it.

        • hellskitchen :

          I didn’t understand your “grossly unfair” remark in your original post but I get it now. It sucks that her poor work ethic combined with pregnancy-related work shirking is going to make it harder for women at your company to get fair family leave benefits in future or for likely-to-be-pregnant women to be hired and that is unfair.

  2. karenpadi :

    I’ve brought up mat leave questions at insurance renewal time. Usually just an email to HR along the lines of “I’m not pregnant, just planning ahead but is pregnancy/mat leave included in the short term disability (STD) policy? With the high-deductible plan, what would the out of pocket costs be for pregnancy and disability? What about the PPO plan?” Short, sweet. Heck, I’ve even gotten on the phone with HR and the insurance rep to talk about this stuff. Maybe they were nervous the first time but I think they’ve gotten used to my yearly what-if-I-get-pregnant freak-out.

    Honestly, I think pregnancy and mat leave policies should be included in the yearly insurance slide show and meetings.

    • is pregnancy normally included in STD policies? or just complications from it? this site is the only time ive ever heard it mentioned in connection with mat leave. My leave would be unpaid so I’d love to know more about it.

      • cfm, I saw what you said earlier about posting less, and I just want to say I’m sorry that you’ve not been around, and I regret that my post (meant to give you a high five) was followed up by some anon saying she doesn’t like you. I still think you’re awesome.

        • It’s too bad that happened, but maybe next time you have a comment that is directed at 1 individual only, you shouldn’t make it on a public board? A person-to-person message isn’t really what a comments section is for. And after it went wrong the first time, you’re doing it again!

      • Meg Murry :

        At the companies I’ve worked for, the postpartum recovery period was considered STD, as was any time you had to take off before the baby was born if it was doctor ordered (doctor ordered bedrest due to blood pressure = STD, stop working before due date due to being tired = take vacation time or FLMA). For an uncomplicated [email protected] delivery, the standard STD time was 6 weeks, for a c-section it was 8 weeks.

        Where it got confusing for me is that my company has a chart for STD and the amount of time allowed off at what pay levels. What I didn’t understand until I talked to our HR rep is that even though after x years you are allowed 26 weeks of STD, that is only for the time you are actively disabled (with doctor’s note). So if I had had complications that made my doctor recommend 26 weeks off, I could have had that time at the level of pay indicated, but for my uncomplicated delivery I got 6 weeks paid, and up to 6 more weeks of unpaid time off due to FMLA. I was also allowed to use some of my vacation time during those 6 unpaid weeks if I wanted it to be paid.

        The other thing that not a lot of people know is that a lot of companies do FMLA on a rolling calendar year – so if I took all 12 weeks allowed to me for maternity leave and then a month later I had something else FMLA related come up (major illness of self or family member, for instance) my company technically would not have to allow me to take the time off once I ran out of vacation time, or could dismiss me for taking the time. So I only took 10 weeks maternity leave, and it was a good thing I did, because I came back for 1 week and then had to take 2 days off because my kids gave me the worst case of the flu ever (thank you no sleep + daycare germs), and at my company sick leave is part of FMLA, we don’t have separate “sick leave”.

      • Research, Not Law :

        I didn’t realize it was covered, either. Normal pregnancy symptoms and conditions are not (you can’t take leave for typical nausea and fatigue, for example), but doctor-ordered bedrest is. You should check on your policy, but typically vaginal birth is covered for 6 weeks and cesarean is covered for 8 weeks. Additional time could be covered for complications, but you’d hope to not be in that group. I’ve heard some employers also have a stop-gap benefit that covers the weeks 6-12, but I’ve never had the fortune to work for one.

        The pay-out will vary by plan (% of income, waiting period, pre/post-tax). FYI, the plan in place for my first child required 12 months of coverage before being eligible for payout, which means it was not an option for me (booo), but the plan I had for the second child had no such requirement.

      • karenpadi :

        It depends on the STD policy. I had to ask HR to figure it out. Ours covers normal pregnancies and mat leave as well as complications. YMMV.

      • It is covered in my STD policy, and I believe it’s typical. My understanding is that you are considered disabled for 6 weeks after a vaginal delivery and 8 weeks after a c-section. My policy has a one-week waiting period before the benefits kick in. So, you would not recive benefits for the first week post-partum, but you would recieve benefits of a certain percentage of your gross income (like 2/3) for the remaining five weeks. You would also recieve benefits if you were put on bed rest or unable to work for reasons related to pregnancy. Your employer may provide this as a benefit, but you may also want to look into getting one yourself (but if you are thinking of getting pregnant, you must have established the policy within 10 months of birth, so you need to get it before you get pregnant, plus at least a month).

        • But you have to be careful — my understanding is that “disability” means you can’t do any of your work at all. I know of women who’ve jumped on a conference call or responded to a handful of emails (seriously, a handful – like five over a 12 week leave) and had their insurance company challenge their claim saying they were “working” and therefore not truly “disabled.”

      • cfm, I used to work in the field and threw out an overview below.

      • I would def. consider pregnancy to be a sexually transmitted disease.

    • PharmaGirl :

      Pregnancy was actually included in our insurance slide show this year and I think that will become more and more common.

      With regard to the question at hand, I wanted to inquire about maternity leave because my intent was to become pregnant shortly after starting this job but work priorities have slowed that goal. A friend who worked at the company offered info as to the maternity leave benefits and researched it for me via the company intranet. Most large companies have the same policies (STD 6-8 weeks, depending on delivery) so any additional benefit is something that you have to negotiate directly with your manager when the time comes. Smaller companies that do not have FMLA protection may be fodder for real negotiation but I would worry about losing my offer if that comversation came up.

    • Was skimming and saw “STD policy” and thought you were discussing something very different than maternity leave!

  3. anon in tejas :

    this is an interesting question. I am child free and want to stay that way (forever!). I sometimes wonder what people are thinking about me and maternity leave at my current office. The politics around maternity leave (and after birth caring/rearing work schedules) are part of the reason why I don’t want children.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      I also don’t want to have children and the issues around maternity leave frustrate me too. I wonder how I’m perceived by potential employers. I’m also frustrated for all the women out there who want to have children and will deal directly with these policies and the resentment that surrounds them. It seems like there is so much pressure on every woman to set a good example for the firm or company and not be seen as abusing the policy, especially not be seen as taking it and then not coming back to work. Unfortunately, I think that we do need other women to set good examples and make employers feel comfortable because of the issues surrounding maternity leave, but it also seems to put so much pressure and guilt on some women who absolutely intend to come back but end up changing their minds. It seems like you just can’t win.

      I hadn’t ever considered asking about leave because of the fact that I don’t intend to have kids, but Kat made a good point that it affects everyone else in the office as well as far as transitioning the workload. So it does seem like an important issue to talk about. Unfortunately, as someone who is 29 and sometimes a job seeker, I feel like asking would be taken as a negative if I asked about it before I had completely proven myself in the job.

      • anon in tejas :

        it’s a double edged sword, and I battle too with the conflicts that you describe.

    • I am not questioning your child-free choice, but really, pregnancy + maternity leave cover only about one year out of 20+ years the parent is responsible for their child.

      • anon in tejas :

        I meant to include the fact that kids get sick, go to school, etc. Those demands are a large part of your life and balancing your family and work.

    • MacKaylaLane :

      That makes me really sad that “the politics of maternity leave” is part of why you don’t want children.

      • anon in tejas :

        I am sure that you’re not. But don’t be sad for me. This is the best decision for me, and there are a lot of factors. But just opting out of the whole maternity, pregnancy, child rearing thing is something that makes me happy.

  4. One other point to ask about is about how sick time may be used. I have a pregnant friend who is allowed to use her vacation time towards her maternity leave but not her accumulated sick time. Not sure on the logoc behind that but something to inquire about.

    • PharmaGirl :

      My previous company had the same policy. We were actualyl required to use vacation time during maternity leave which really pissed me off. I then had no vacation time when I returned from leave.

  5. I threw this question out here (whether I should ask about maternity leave before accepting the offer) when I was considering my current job, with a very small law firm (no FMLA). Most advised that I should probably ask, but I ultimately chickened out (thanks anyway, though, guys). I’ve been here about 1.5 years and I’m 8 months pregnant now. Fortunately, it all worked out very well – my employers have been very pleasant and understanding regarding the issue.

    That said, because we are such a small firm (I am the only associate, and I pretty much manage my own cases with minimal input from the partners), I believe that circumstances mean that I have to be a lot more flexible than one would with a larger firm. To a large degree, my job is more like being my own firm than like a traditional employee. I’m not sure what would happen if I were to demand, say, 12 weeks of paid leave, but I would know that that was unreasonable, at least. They have told me that they would “work with me” – I now intend to take 8 weeks off, although I anticipate that I will work some from home during that time. We’re still working out what that means, compensation-wise (I have an odd comp structure, anyway). (Noteably, I am the main breadwinner in our household, and my husband will be out of work for the entire time I am and beyond, which obviously changes things.)

    I guess that you could say that I’m lucky, to work for good and fair people, and also that I have had a completely complication-free pregnancy and anticipating working right up to whenever that timer goes off. So, I realize that I was probably playing with fire by not attepting to make a deal earlier, although it did work out. Good luck to all of those in similar situations!

  6. All I know is that I wished I worked at Google! Women get 18 weeks paid maternity leave! I am currently pregnant and was told I will get 6 weeks paid (short term disability) but that my accrued sick and vacation leave will also run concurrently with my paid disability. So essentially, if I want to take my full 12 weeks, the last 6 will be unpaid (this is better than most maternity leaves so I shouldn’t complain), but what’s worse, I won’t have any sick or vacation when I come back. Hopefully the baby doesn’t get sick during that time period or that my husband can take time off to take care of her!

    • It seems terrible that they can double-dip like that into your Short-Term disability and also your vacation time. Did you confirm with HR?

      • Meg Murry :

        Confirm with HR – at one terrible company I worked for this was the written policy, but they didn’t actually follow it for maternity leave. Probably not fair, and its possible they followed it for other people, but I wasn’t going to complain since the way they did it was in my favor.

      • I agree, that sounds off. I would confirm with HR and look into it a bit more.

      • I’ve confirmed with HR that this is how it is. It infuriates me because a financial/insurance company is paying my short term disability, but the University takes my paid sick and vacation. They are essentially making money off of my leave because they don’t have to pay me, and get my paid leave in the process! Our HR department is a joke, and I plan on bringing this inconsistency up to them the next time I see them, but I’m not going to hold my breath for a different outcome.

        • I wonder if that conflicts with the terms of their short term disability policy.

    • Alanna of Trebond :

      I believe all big law firms offer 18-20 weeks paid maternity leave. Not that it’s really a reason to work in big law, but seems standard to me. So if you are a lawyer….

  7. Diana Barry :

    All this fol-de-rol over negotiating maternity leave, when to ask, etc. etc. Argh. It really makes me want to move to Sweden, where they have PAID PARENTAL LEAVE. Grr.

    • Susan (edna_mode_nyc) :

      Once while traveling on business, I saw a Japanese TV show called “Somewhere Street” where they have the host of the show + translator and camera crew walking around public places in various foreign countries.

      The Sweden episode was hilarious. They were in some big city, and the host walked to a park with a play area for kids. She nearly passed out from shock when she saw all these fathers playing with their sons and daughters. And she asked them how they have time, subtly indicating that she wondered whether they were unemployed. One of the fathers gave her a quick explanation that Sweden has paid parental leave so parents can enjoy bonding with their children.

      Not to excuse the difficulty here in the U.S., but if we think Sweden is at one end of the spectrum, Japan is at the opposite end.

    • I am terribly grateful I live in a jurisdiction where I don’t need to worry about mat leave, and I am so sorry that those of you in the US have to deal with this. It seems very unfair.

      • Not to open a political can of worms (please!), but what always kills me is when I hear our politicians talk about how terriblble it would be if we turned into one of those countries with mandatory vacation time and paid parental benefits! Right, instead, let’s have all the same economic problems and none of the quality of life benefits. Way better.

      • Equity's Darling :

        No kidding- whenever there are posts about mat leave , or dealing with how to pay for medical treatment, I thank my lucky stars that I do not have to worry about those things, even though I’m definitely no where close to needing a mat leave, and I’m currently healthy. Tommy Douglas knew what was up.

        • um, Japan isn’t at the opposite end– don’t know about paternity there, but women have a full year off according to my colleague in Tokyo. It’s the US that is at the other end of the spectrum:(

  8. Maybe because I work for a large employer (and in the healthcare sector, at that), but I had the opportunity to have an in-depth discussion about benefits with the HR recruiter, at the offer stage. They provide documents that specifically address what the health insurance levels do and do not cover, as well as very specific information about maternity leave. If I wanted to negotiate the specifics of vacation time or leaves of absence, there was opportunity to do it at the offer stage, as well. I could go through the recruiter for the benefits part of the negotiation or through the person I would be working for.

  9. If you work for a small employer (under 50 FT employees), then the employer is under no legal obligation to follow any of those guidelines. Don’t count on FMLA if you work for a small company.

  10. Not at the stage where I want to have children yet (3-5 yrs down the road), but it scares the heck out of me to think that if I take maternity leave, intend to come back, and change my mind, that that would be doing a disservice to womankind. It’s just a no-win situation. I totally get why it sort of would be, I just think it’s pretty unavoidable. I think I know myself pretty well and that I will likely want to be a working mother, but I also know that I’ve never had a child and can’t anticipate what doing so will change about my future plans, goals, dreams, etc.

    Le sigh.

    • Susan (edna_mode_nyc) :

      Sadly, I think it’s often this way when a large, dominant majority lets in a few members of a minority group. Women may be the majority in the U.S. headcount wise, but in corporate, we are under-represented. The dominant majority does the stereotyping thing where they let the traits of a few individuals of a minority group become their model for how they expect that entire minority group will behave.

      A friend of mine experienced this with her high school. She is African-American and was bused in to a particular high school. That particular school was known to be strong in English, drama, and history, but she actually had little interest in those subjects, but wanted to go to a not-dangerous high school. She wanted to be a science teacher, but was worried that blowing off English would not be interpreted as , “X isn’t interested in English, but that African-Americans are crap at school” by the majority population. She didn’t sign up to be a “race ambassador” but was assigned that role by society anyways.

  11. A few questions about FMLA and Short Term Disability always come up when this subject comes up – I used to work in STD, so I’m pretty familiar, and I’ll offer up an overview:

    1. FMLA allows 12 weeks if your employer is large enough to qualify, but do note that this is UNpaid leave. Some states provide for a longer time period, so check your state as well. This means that your employer has to hold your job for at least that long, but it’s total time out of work, not necessarily time after the baby. You should also still be eligible for bonuses and benefits during that time, and shouldn’t lose any seniority.

    2. STD would usually count pregnancy as pre-existing, so don’t count on being able to purchase it after you get knocked up.

    3. Most STD plans provide 6 weeks of benefits post-baby, based on a percentage of your salary, usually 60% or 2/3. Some but not all pay 8 weeks if you have a C-section. There’s likely to be an elimination period (an unpaid time period at the beginning) of 7 to 14 days, which does eat into your 6 weeks.

    4. If you have complications and have to miss work before baby comes, STD should pay for that as well, as long as it’s a significant amount of time and you have supporting medical documentation (this can be a headache). It is likely to also pay longer if you have very significant complications and need more time off work, but things generally have to be pretty bad to get that. You can take off longer (under FMLA), but it would be unpaid. If you happen to have a very physically demanding job, benefits would start sooner, too (i.e., if your job requires you to lift a lot, and your employer can’t accomodate and change your duties, you may be able to stop working and start receiving benefits sometime in the 24-30 week range.)

    If you’ve got more questions, ask them here!

    • Lyssa, that is so helpful, thank you! How does it work if one gets a STD policy and has certain amount of sick/vacation time? Let’s say STD pays for 6 weeks and I have 6 weeks of time accrued – would accrued time have to be exhausted? Also, how far in advance of pg. would one purchase something like this? Isn’t it a bit hard to know?

      Also, can I just add a note of immaturity to the discussion? Every time I read STD – I think of something other than Short Term Disability. It’s troubling me to think that I might be trying to actually purchase one of these other somethings!

      • Saying STD became such a habit for me when I worked there that I let it slip several times to non-work friends and, well, hilarity and confusion ensued, so I will fully accept your immaturity. :)

        Regarding the sick/vacation time, I’ve seen it done a number of different ways, so I don’t think that there’s a standard and you’ll have to look to your company’s policies. Some companies allow a person to use the sick time to “make up” the partial salary loss (i.e., if your STD pays 2/3 of your salary, you can take the other 1/3 as sick time), but other companies want to keep the salary loss (on the theory that being on disability shouldn’t be too comfortable so you’ll come back to work). Other companies just have a blanket policy saying use sick time or don’t and save it for non-disability. As far as I can tell, there’s no reason why a company can’t do what someone above described and insist on use of the sick time during the disability if that’s a blanket policy (after all, there’s no rule that says they have to give any sick time at all, barring contract or state law), though I agree that it’s a crappy way to treat your employees. I saw that a bit, but it was uncommon. I’d say that the most common way that I saw was to allow the person to use the sick/vacation time after the benefits exhausted, but again, no standard.

        Regarding time in advance, I’d say that you probably have to purchase it at open enrollment before you get pregnant (or at least, before you know that you’re pregnant) to qualify. Though it could depend on the pre-existing clause of the individual contract. So, if enrollment’s open now, and you plan to try in 2013, definitely purchase it now. If it’s too late to purchase it now, then try to request a copy of the policy and find out if it has a pre-existing exclusion (it might not – when I was working, they were getting more common in STD, but we’re quite the norm) before you count on getting it.

    • Anonymous :

      Lyssa, very helpful –

      Do you know where I can find the answer to another question? I conceived five days after starting my new job. (And I’m sure!)
      But under the official 28-day charts/counting back from due date, it would show that I conceived on the first day of my new job.

      Am I screwed? Do I need my doctor to engage in subterfuge with me and change my due date? I’m pretty sure he would if I explained the situation…

      I’m so glad for this thread; I didn’t even think about this sort of thing until right now (I’m in the third month and haven’t told HR yet).

      • Congrats on your pregnancy (and new job)!

        No, you’re not necessarily screwed. A few things: First, know that you’re not eligible for FMLA, which only applies after you’ve been working there a year. But most employers will still work with you because it’s kind of a d*ck move not to.

        Second, for STD, it really depends on your individual policy – Find out when you are eligible for benefits like that (right away or after you’ve been there a certain amount of time?) and when you can purchase coverage if you haven’t already. Also, look to your STD policy (you may have to request this from the company or from HR) to find out whether you have a pre-existing exclusion for STD. If you don’t, then you’re likely to still be covered if you purchase now. Also, talk to HR (when you’re ready) to find out what the overall maternity leave policies are – some employers just pay without going through the STD coverage. (I’ll cross my fingers for you.)

        If your policy came effective before you got pregnant (such as on your first day of work), then you may have to provide some documentation to support when you found out that you were pregnant – usually pre-ex goes to when the person should have reasonably known that they have the condition, not necessarily when the condition actually arose (i.e., a person who had a heart condition which led to a heart attack would still be covered if they hadn’t actually had any symptoms or treatment before then). Most of the time, they would look to your first doctor’s visit, not the date that you actually conceived (I guess that could change if you had some sort of directed conception – is that a term? rather than just conceiving the old fashioned way, but I’ve never seen that come up.)

        Good luck to you!

        I love knowin’ stuff.

    • I would like to add that the only STD policies that cover maternity leave are group policies. My firm has offered me two weeks paid leave and ?weeks unpaid leave for maternity leave, so I decided to try to find a STD policy to supplement income, as I am the breadwinner in the family. Nada. Just wanted to save other r e t t e s some time and frustration….

      • Yes, good point. I worked in group and often forget that there is a whole other side of it.

        Individual policies for LTD (long term disability) are something that most people should get if they can, but individual for STD is really not worthwhile for most.

  12. And this is why I have no intention of leaving my big firm until after I’m done being pregnant. After working here for years, I have earned my 16 weeks paid maternity leave. I hope I won’t have to leave after I have kids, but all of the senior associates/partners with kids have SAHMs because we work too much. The odds are against me.

  13. Now that it’s open season for feds, is there short term disability that anyone can recommend for covering part of maternity leave? Is there any available through fed benefits, or are they separate? I know nothing. Help.

    • The Federal Government does not offer STD. OPM proposed it to Congress in 2008:,1360.aspx. Nothing was done. You would have to buy it through a private insurer.

  14. This will probably be a tangential random brain dump related to maternity leave without a real point, but since I’m coming up on mine in around 4 weeks, it’s on my mind.

    I’m technically an independent contractor for a hospital system. There is no formal physician maternity leave policy, but they seem to be treating me pretty similarly to the actual employees. I think that I could have taken up to 12 weeks off (one of the other physicians just came back from 12 weeks off with first child). I am taking around 4, plus returning at a part time schedule for another month or so after. I will be paid my full salary for this. I didn’t inquire about maternity leave policies while taking this job, and I’m not sure that there is an official one. When I got pregnant, I informed the woman that runs the clinic that I was pregnant, and would be taking some time off, and we’ve worked out the details as we went.

    Honestly, in many respects, I’m very lucky. It took them 3 years to recruit a second general surgeon to town, so I assume that I had a position of significant leverage in this negotiation, because they would be essentially totally unwilling to terminate me or non-renew me in regards to maternity leave.

    On the other hand, the reality of being in a small town, and having limited people to do my job also significantly impacts my decisions about maternity leave. The main reason I’m returning so quickly is because of our desperate need for call coverage. I can’t expect the other surgeon in town to cover our call for months at a time. Is it my responsibility to worry about these things? I’m not really sure. When the other physician went out for three months, they found someone to cover for her. Due to specialty specific issues, it would be much more challenging to find a replacement for me. So I’m taking 10 days of call in December up til 38 weeks pregnant and then another 10 days in late January, when I’ll be a month post partum. Maybe I should be more cavalier in my attitude and let the hospital solve the problem, but it’s not really my nature, and I’m planning to work with the other physicians here for a long time.

    On a separate note, with both of my pregnancies, I’ve felt a lot of pressure to grin and bear it through the pregnancies. I am lucky because both have been uncomplicated, with no major issues, but I don’t really feel like I can complain. I feel a significant burden to not give pregnant workers a bad name or give people a reason to roll their eyes when they hear someone is pregnant.

    • Is it possible to push back taking calls until mid-February or something? Or maybe spacing out your call days so it isn’t too much of a burden? I’m sure you’ve given a lot of thought about your return to work and I think it’s awesome that you’ve made it to where you are. Just because you can be tough doesn’t mean you have to be.

  15. I would like to take 3-6 months paid leave to learn another language or remodel my home.

    • That made me giggle.

    • today has been my favorite corp0r3t3 day ever

      • PANDA stuck in moderation.

        PANDA is angry about the above since PANDA’s poachers are still posting.

        PANDA is glad others find today sooooo much better than “are pearls too out there” zzzz posts and “don’t make fun of pregnancy you have no idea what it’s like to a WOMAN and a MOM!” posts.

        PANDA likes Avodah.

        • I’m genuinely confused. For those who find this site generally boring and not their cup of tea, why bother coming to it to post in the comments criticizing the comments section?

          Is the fun just stirring up “trouble”? What am I missing?

          • Anonymous :

            I think that must be it.

            I was sympathetic toward PANDA and others like her for awhile– there is a group of folks who seem pretty friendly and close to each other and even tho they don’t seem exclusionary, I admit I sometimes envy their closeness without wanting to build the relationship. I am lazy and jealous.

            But what PANDA and others are doing is the equivalent of going to a bar (owned by Kat), where a group of regulars and locals go, eavesdropping on their convo for awhile, and then barging in with criticism. Even if you’re right, you’re barging into a group and if they don’t like your criticism and you attack them, they will probably trounce you.

            I don’t think these people would do that in a real bar, especially not to men. But here’s a site full of women who are mostly socialized to be nice, and well, it’s the internets, so if you want to start trouble, it’s easy to. I’m just amazed that it hasn’t gotten uglier. There are sites and message boards where PANDA et al would have been skewered pretty nastily. I think they just want to wreck this community. And they’re being cowardly about it because nobody’s really slammed them that hard when you really think about it.

      • Best comment day ever! I love these funny posts that seem to get the stuck up girls panties in a bunch. :).

  16. Legally Brunette :

    As much as all of us work a lot at my BigLaw firm, I am so, so grateful that I have 18 weeks of paid maternity leave, plus 4 weeks of paid vacation a year, plus the option to take unpaid leave up towards a year. Most women at my firm take an average of 6 months of maternity leave.

  17. A little terrified :

    I hate thinking about any of this. I’ll be 35 in two months so we’re in full TTC mode, but I’m the sole breadwinner in our house. Perfect, right? Because then my husband will be SAHD? Nope. First, that would make him completely miserable and I wouldn’t ask it of him unless we really had no other choice. Second, he does work full time it’s just that he’s starting his own firm and has no revenue yet. Actually, he works more than full time. The firm is also partly mine (and I plan to work there full time once it’s up and running and bringing in enough money) and so I do work for the firm on top of my existing full time job. We each put in close to 60 hr weeks. My paying job is with a small employer who offers no paid leave. I do get as much unpaid leave as I want, so that’s helpful, but I’m really worried about having a complicated pregnancy. Plus, while my employer is great about being flexible when it comes to doctor appointments, etc., I am expected to make up the time I spend doing any of that. There are lots of women in the firm who’ve had babies while working here, but they’re all the secondary income in their households and most of them subsequently cut back on hours after their babies are born. If I were five years younger (or even three), we’d wait another year or so to let our lives stabilize, but I just can’t see waiting when I’m already 35. I just worry that, ultimately, we won’t be able to keep everything going and something will have to give. If it does, it’s likely to be our new firm and that would be devasting after all the work we’ve put into it. Sorry this was all sort of, not rant-y exactly, but rambling. Just things that swirl around my head every day.

    • I’m sorry, that’s a rough place to be. But nine months is a long time and pg. is usually a bit over that time, so if you conceive in the next few months and add the 9 months to that, it’s roughly a full year for the firm to stabilize a bit more. I know that’s assuming everything works out as planned, but I think it might be helpful to think of it in those terms to not add to the stress.

      I often panic when I think about pregnancy but I think part of it is just that in my mind, it feels like if we decide to have a baby today, I’ll be fully preggers and in labor tomorrow, with a crying infant the day after. Whereas in reality, I’ll have some time to figure out which dresser drawer will best work as a crib ;)

  18. I don’t have children (and am unlikely to) but the maternity policies at my former large firm very much affected me. Three times I had a colleague’s entire case load dumped on me when she went out on maternity leave, twice earlier than expected.

    • jr. associate :

      Are you me? As much as I hate to say this, it makes it hard for me to be happy about my colleagues having children because I know my workload almost doubles while they’re out…

    • You should blame your company’s policies, not the women who are having children.

  19. Well, I think you can be happy for them while at the same time acknowledging that maternity leave can lead to an imbalance of workloads.

    IMHO-everyone should just get X amount of “leave” per # of years at a company. That way people who don’t have kids don’t get scr*wed.

    • Genuinely curious :

      I’m a little perplexed by your last line (about people who don’t have kids not getting scr*wed). Is this because you don’t get to take leave? Or because you get other people’s work dumped on you without the thought that, at some point in the future, you’ll be the one dumping your work on someone else, so it all evens out in the wash? #2 I sort of understand (the frustration part, but I see it as something that is not changeable) but #1 I don’t. I don’t see parental leave as woo-hoo extra vacation – I see it as necessary to ease the transition of a new person into this world and new parents into parenthood. I’ve also never taken a vacation where I’ve been chronically sleep deprived, bleeding from my lady parts, and been screamed at for hours a day.

      • It is because I don’t get to take leave to accomodate my life choices. No, I don’t plan to have kids.

        You made a life choice to have a kid, and it comes with good and bad consequences. Graduate school, mountain climbing, writing a novel, learning a language, volunteering are all worthwhile, meaningful endeavors, but nobody gets paid time off to complete them.

        I don’t have a problem with “leave” whether it is for illness or personal reasons, but *paid* maternity leave and all of its perks seems a bit unequal IMHO.

        • Curious here, no snark intended: would you be ok with a paid version of FMLA (so not just for new babies, but also for care of family member, illness, etc.)? Or do you feel that whatever is extended to maternity leave should also be extended for hiking/writing/other activities of one’s choosing?

          • Well, #1 I don’t think there ought to be any Federal law(s) for any of it, but thats another story.

            1.) I think people should get something similar to FMLA that allows for leave for medical care (ill spouse, child, parent, pregnancy, etc.)

            2.) Yes, *if* an employer chooses to pay people for mat. leave, then there should be the option for people to take paid leave for whatever they choose. Ideally, this would be X amount of weeks per X amount of years at the company. Aside from that, mat. leave would only be covered by FMLA.

            I don’t think maternity leave is a bad idea, I just am not sure how I feel about the 10 weeks paid leave that new parents get to take while I pick up the slack.

          • karenpadi :

            Avodah, some companies do have a sabbatical program. These are generally larger companies and universities.

            I used to agree with you that mat leave was so unfair but after seeing my friends have kids, I just don’t feel that way anymore. Life happens. Comparing having kids to mountain climbing or book writing is like comparing apples to oranges. Kids need their parents and are almost exclusively dependent on them for survival and well-being. That mountain will still be there whether I climb it or not. No one will miss a novel that’s never written.

        • Well, as for 1) – FMLA does also cover care for an ill spouse, ill parent or an ill child, as well as for the employee herself. The M doesn’t stand for maternity, it stands for medical.

          As for 2) – the purpose of paying for maternity leave, and parental leave for that matter, is for an employer to attract candidates that they otherwise wouldn’t. This is also why many universities pay for their tenured professors to go on sabatical and do things like write articles and novels. I think ultimately, as frustrating as it may be to have someone else’s work dumped on you, we all benefit from more women-friendly policies in the workplace, even those of us who choose not to have babies.

        • Anastasia :

          This is basic economics and has nothing to do with “fairness.” At least not in the U.S., where there is no mandated paid maternity leave. Aside from you feeling slighted at having to pick up the slack of a coworker, the company loses money on paid maternity leave. The company has done a cost-benefit analysis and realized that a sizable chunk of their workforce will be interested in maternity leave, so it behooves them to have a decent policy in place to attract and retain a quality workforce.

          A similar cost-benefit analysis has concluded that the benefit just isn’t there for sabbaticals (except in some select, progressive companies); people don’t value/demand/expect them the way they do maternity leave, but many people would undoubtedly take advantage if they were offered… so it’s a big loss for not as much gain.

        • Um, it isn’t like those kinds of leave at all- it’s more of a medical/caretaking necessity. I thought like you until I had a baby and couldn’t disagree more now. 4-6 weeks I was in physical recovery, the 2nd 6 weeks was barely eating/sleeping trying to take care of baby. It’s just apples and oranges from a hobby break. New mothers really can’t work, it isn’t an opt-in/out thing. It’d be nice if we all could have time off of work paid to do fun things, even those of us with kids. But if you have surgery, or need to take care of an ill relative, that’s more akin to having a baby, and FLMA will cover that too.

    • Susan (edna_mode_nyc) :

      +1 Awesome idea.

    • Silvercurls :

      Not going to do this thread justice because I have to leave in 5 minutes (family obligation) but here goes anyway:
      Life isn’t fair. We can try to plan and strategize but sometimes stuff just happens. Circumstances change and we have to adapt. So no, it’s not fair that people who are not currently, or will not ever be, out on maternity leave will have to pick up the overflow from their absent colleagues. It’s also not fair that sometimes new parents (in our society, usually new moms or moms-to-be) decide to or are forced to drop out of the workforce due to complicated pregnancies, complicated experiences once the child is born (e.g., post-partum depression; child arrives with unexpected special needs and/or medical complications; parent has unanticipated complete unwillingness to place child in child care, and also has the financial ability to step back from the workplace). Finally, it’s also not fair that society has decided–despite our conflicted approach to parental leave and work/family balance–that we will honor (!?) employee leave-taking for family matters (usually child care, sometimes elder or other care) more than we will honor employee leave-taking for graduate school, learning a language, or other socially useful but not family-related or population-expanding activities.

      Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t even expect our society to find a satisfying answer in the near future! About the only thing I can say to everybody is count all your blessings (we all have them, even if it’s something as big as the financial security to leave one’s paid employment or as seemingly small as the physical ability to run for the bus every morning), and whether you are in or out of the workplace due to your own choice or life circumstances, stay strong (as another poster wrote here yesterday to someone awaiting results of a bar exam)…and don’t let anybody diminish your belief in yourself. The outside world may disdain us for being a step-out-of-work-for-a-while mom, a keep-working-d*mn-the-torpedoes mom, a never-gonna-be-a-mom-by-choice woman, or whatever else, but we have to keep faith with ourselves.

      Okay, rant over. Gotta run but will revisit this page later, if anybody wants to respond.

  20. Not law, but going to be going out on maternity leave soon.

    At both positions/companies I’ve been at while pregnant, maternity leave is covered under STD. The first company paid out at 66% of my pay for 8 weeks because I had a c-section (would have been 6 weeks otherwise) and my current employer pays out at 100% for 8 weeks. I run FMLA concurrently with my STD.

    Companies have to offer FMLA to fathers as well – similarly, if maternity leave is covered under a company’s STD, the PATERNITY leave has to be covered as well. And it doesn’t have to be taken immediately either. I’ve known couples who will basically cover the first six months of their child’s life without day care because the mom takes the first 12 weeks, then the dad takes the second 12 weeks.

  21. @ karen I guess we must agree to disagree. I think parenting is important, but I don’t think employers or colleagues should pay for someone else’s life choices.

    I am aware that larger companies and universities offer this, but it isn’t as common as maternity leave.

    For the record- I’d miss Philip Roth’s novels much more than most peoples’ kids.

    • I also disagree with the idea that one person’s choice to have a kid should trump your choice not to. But I think that creating a country in which we don’t make women (and let’s face it, it’s women who make this choice) have to choose between having a family and having a career is a laudable goal for us to have as a nation. If we didn’t have FMLA (as paltry as it is), we’d have even fewer women contributing to the workforce. Which I think plays into the idea of missing novels never written–I don’t think we’d know what contributions we were missing were women not given those opportunities. I think it’s more about the collective than the individual when it comes to reasoning behind these policies — at least that’s why I think they’re so important whether I have children or not.

      • Well said. Not to mention that someone has to birth the next Phillip Roth.

        Plus, as someone who has worked in higher ed, let me just assure you: all that paid sabbaticals ensure is that your class is unloaded on a colleague who then sit arounds the faculty lounge griping about your pointless and worthless research. Human nature is what it is.

    • Anonymous :

      But realistically that means women can’t have real careers and kids. Have fun with that.

  22. I commented earlier via phone but I guess my post got lost. I hope this isn’t a double post.

    When I was interviewing for my job in a very small office I was married but not yet ready to have kids. Since my office had never had a female employee get pregnant, there was not maternity leave. I discussed maternity with my boss-to-be (no HR, awkward) in general terms when discussing all benefits. He gave me a sense of what it would be, and that was good enough for me.

    A year and a half or so later, after passing the 12 week mark of my pregnancy, we started to discuss specifics. I did my own benchmarking starting with by business school classmates. As shocking number of my business school classmates also worked in offices where they were the first pregnancy. I also talked to my peers in offices similar to mine- and this is what ended up being the most helpful. After doing all my research, I gave it all to my boss. A few weeks later, he presented me with our office policy.

    As a professional, maternity leave is a benefit and all offices, even if not required to by FMLA, should be willing to give a competitive maternity leave. What I’ve found is that what is competitive varies a lot from industry to industry. Big law seems to offer the best policies by at least 2-4 weeks of leave and even more of paid leave. I-banking and management consulting also great. And then it varies a lot after that.

    The one thing I hadn’t thought about until doing my benchmarking was the issue of bonus pay. Some companies pay full bonuses, some pay on a prorated basis. A huge negotiating point if your bonus is a big part of your total take home pay!