Asking for and getting extra maternity leave depends upon your individual situation and your workplace's leave policies.
The federal government covers maternity leave laws under the stipulations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). With this act, employees who qualify can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave without fearing that they'll lose their job. This leave time can be used in addition to any vacation or sick leave you have built up. Most employers require an advance notice if you plan to use this type of extra leave.
Some states, like California, offer additional laws that govern when and how women can go about getting extra maternity leave beyond what is offered by her employer and the federal government. Check your state's family and medical leave laws to find out if you qualify for extra leave time beyond your company's stated policies.
Additional Company Benefits
Women who work at family-friendly employers may have a separate maternity leave package beyond the FMLA. The maternity leave package should be outlined when you begin working at a particular employer, but you should check in with human resources to find out any policy changes since you started.
Employers may require you to use vacation and/or sick time during your leave if you want a paid leave. Additional unpaid leave beyond the 12 weeks under the FMLA might also be offered. Workplaces may offer additional time off for the following situations:
- Doctor ordered bed rest
- High-risk pregnancies or complications
- Post-partum depression
- Care for a newborn in an intensive care unit
The actual benefits you get will depend upon the particular policy in place at the time. Your employer may require doctor's notes and forms to be filled out in order to qualify. Check with your company to find out about additional maternity leave benefits and programs beyond the standard policy.
Strategies for Getting Extra Maternity Leave
Pregnant women are usually told by their physician to take a recommended maternity leave of anywhere between two and eight weeks after the birth of their child. However, when pregnancy complications arise and you go on maternity leave early, you may use up all of your current leave resources and need more. Furthermore, some women may not be employed in a position that grants them any company leave, FMLA coverage, or state coverage.
Permission for an extended leave will be left up to your boss, human resources, and the company management. You will need to present a clear case as to why you should be granted the extended leave. Use one or more strategies offered below to help you convince your company to let you take extra leave.
Highlight how the extra leave will end up benefiting the company. By allowing you to fully recover from birth, you will be healthy enough to focus on your job. Giving you extra time off for care of a sick newborn will ensure that you are not spending your time at work worrying about the new baby.
Past and Future Work Performance
Think about asking for extra leave the same way as asking for a raise. What have you done to deserve the additional leave? Make a list of any past projects that you have completed with success, highlight your overtime hours, and/or mention the new training you recently completed. Assure your boss that you want to continue your career after your extended leave is over.
Disability and Medical Packages
Employers that do not offer separate maternity leave or fall under FMLA rules may still offer a medical or disability benefits and leave plan. If you have physical complications from your pregnancy, you may be granted additional sick leave under this plan. For example, women experiencing post-partum depression that makes them unable to return to work may want to look into whether their disability insurance will cover mental health issues.
If you are hoping to get extra maternity leave for personal (non-medical) reasons, it will be helpful to be flexible. When you request maternity leave, you can ask for additional time off up front. Offering to come back part-time or telecommute will not only make returning to work easier, but also show your boss you are serious about actually coming back. It's possible that you may be granted several weeks or even months of extra leave from your full-time position by agreeing to a flex schedule.
Having a job is essential not only to many families' budgets but also to your sense of self. Protect yourself by getting physical copies of leave policies and document everything. Keep copies of any maternity leave letters and forms you turn into the company. If you end up getting extra maternity leave, ask your boss to put it in writing and be sure it has been cleared with the proper channels.