If you have ever negotiated for a higher salary or for additional PTO, you’ll know how daunting the idea of negotiating for maternity leave feels. For many women, the day comes when they will need to ask for maternity leave due to the sad fact that, unfortunately, many women only take two weeks off, when the recovery and bonding time with their child requires more.
Since the United States is the worst developed country when it comes taking maternity leave, especially paid, what’s a woman to do?
You ask for it, anyway.
Even when your employer has a written policy on maternity leave, realize that you have the power to make change happen and claim what other mothers, you and your baby deserve. The worst an employer can say is “no.”
Knowing what your rights are and developing effective strategies during negotiations will help you feel more empowered to approach your employer for maternity leave negotiation.
1. Consider a Starting Point for Negotiation
What does your company policy say regarding maternity leave? Experts at the Center for WorkLife Law say that, while bigger organizations have outlined policies on maternity leave, they aren’t chiseled in stone like commandments, and many pregnant women should also negotiate for better accommodations while at work.
Many negotiations continue with supervisors, and the policy functions as a starting point with guidelines for maternity leave. So, read up, and talk to other coworkers who’ve taken maternity leave.
2. Know What You Deserve
Besides talking to other mom coworkers at your workplace, speak with a trusted individual in Human Resources who will be able to confidentially and efficiently help you develop your negotiation strategy.
They’ll know more about state and federal laws that will help you. For example, if your organization employs more than fifty people within seventy-five miles of its site, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) mandates that employees who are expecting must receive twelve weeks of unpaid parental leave, at least.
Very few companies offer paid leave, roughly twelve percent, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try. You’ll need to have worked at least 1,250 hours in the last twelve months to be eligible.
3. Be Specific With Requests
As with salary and benefits negotiations, know what you’re worth and what you need, then stick with specifics. Avoid asking for more without asking for a specific amount. Consider the time you’ll need to recover as a new mother and bond with your baby and consider whether your partner will be opting for time off as well.
While FMLA gives you twelve weeks, if you think you need more time to bond with your baby, you may be required to use vacation or sick time. If your partner works for the same employer, your twelve weeks may have to be shared. Prepare for these scenarios. Be open to negotiation, but don’t accept less than you need. Perhaps there’s a way to work from home with fewer hours, for example, and meet in the middle.
4. Develop Your Negotiation Skills First
Don’t go into the meeting with naïve negotiation guns blazing. Get your feet wet, and brush up on your negotiation skills with reading and practice. Scan through a giant stack of books about the art of no in the workplace, saying no and maintaining a good relationship and how to navigate a maze of no wrapped in red corporate tape and jargon.
Practice with a friend or partner and turn to mentors for advice. Write down what you’re going to say and memorize statistics without breaking a sweat or sounding overbearing. This way, you’ll stick to the facts and be specific and confident.
Be prepared to discuss your reentry and goals for the future, which reiterate your value to the company. The fact that you’ve planned everything out will show the company you’ve considered them in the equation, as well as your contribution.
You can grow your family and your career. It’s about balance. So, showcase your maternity leave as a positive for everyone.
5. Choose the Right Person to Negotiate With First
Who is your best advocate at work who is also in a position of power to grant you what you need? Look back over the chain of command, analyzing the order of workplace operations closely. Your direct supervisor may be your best advocate or it could be a prior supervisor who will be able to help with a preliminary discussion.
HR will also be open to helping you plan and schedule a time to negotiate, however, it’s best to request a meeting in person.
Negotiation doesn’t have to stop with one “no.” Go up the ladder if you have to, and ally yourself with those will advocate for you.
See your request for maternity leave as a positive for all involved, and show up to the meeting prepared with research and a plan from the time you leave to your reentry. Be specific, and place yourself in the shoes of your employer. Consider their needs, too.
As with any negotiation, all sides will need to make appropriate plans and points. Be open to possibilities, but don’t accept less than you truly need because you and your family are worth it.
Work-life balance starts with good communication among all parties. Please continue the conversation by leaving a comment below, and get more negotiation and career tips by subscribing to Punched Clocks.
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