Are you a mother-to-be? If so, congratulations! You are about to enter one of the most amazing times of your life – but, also the scariest. Preparing for a baby is hard, especially when there are so many unknowns. One of the biggest puzzle pieces is working with your employer to plan for your maternity leave and return.
On the flip-side, a manager has specific preparations to make on behalf of their company and team. To make the transition successful, employees and employers should work together to ensure their plan works for both parties.
When creating a plan, consider the following guidelines shared by two AP Professionals’ partners who did so themselves this year. Alanna Marriott, a first time mother, shares her suggestions for employees preparing for leave. Kim Bruno, a partner who provided back-up, shares her suggestions for managers. Managers should build upon the guidelines for the employee to meet the needs of the employer.
Guidelines for the employee
Review your maternity leave policy
If you are not already well-versed on the terms of your company’s maternity leave policy, now is the time. You will need to take some time off after the baby is born. More than likely you will also need guidance on how much time you are allowed to take.
Request a copy of the policy to look over and write down any questions. This part of the process is confusing in general, but more so because New York State came out with new plans like Paid Family Leave (PFL) for things such as having a new baby. You might be the first person in your company taking this type of leave. Ask questions and remember, your HR representative is there to help.
You may have HR paperwork you are putting off (guilty), or insurance stuff to take care of (snore). Set aside some time to check these items off your to-do list early in your third trimester. You don’t want to be manic in the last few weeks!
Unless your due date is planned, you never know when that little one will make their appearance. There are so many things that you will worry about in the weeks before the delivery. So, make sure to get the stuff you CAN control out of the way. Then you can concentrate on the fun stuff.
Decide how much time to take off – and when
This was one of the hardest parts of the process for me. As a first time mom, you have no idea what delivery or caring for a baby will be like. So, how could you know ahead of time how long you will need to take off?!
Deciding when to come back is not only important for you, but also your family and those filling in for you at work. Now with PFL new parents can take off more time than ever before. To give you an idea: you can take the full time allowed or take X amount of weeks and use the remaining days work a part time schedule. The hard part is balancing what is best for the baby/home life and your coworker’s workload in your absence.
Document your projects, workload, and tasks
The first step to transition your work writing down your current projects and tasks. Then, write down what work will come up when you are gone that you know of and can plan for.
Of course, there are things you will not know a head of time. Writing down your routine will help to ensure everything is covered while you are out. You can simply document your tasks in a given day or capture your activities for a week. You could even create a project status report that you update frequently until you take leave.
Discuss a transition plan with your manager
Now you have everything documented and an idea of your current and future work flow. So, work with your manager to decide who will be taking on what. If you have a team, start chatting with them about their responsibilities. This will help you and your manager decide who is best equip to handle your duties. This might even include talk of bringing on a temporary employee to fill in.
You may want to suggest making a 30-, 60- or 90- day transition plan. Put time on your calendar to meet with your coworkers/temporary employee for training so they will feel confident filling in.
Set exciting goals for your return
Coming back to work is hard! It is scary and nerve-wracking. You are leaving your baby for most likely the first time and coming back to work after being on a wacky schedule! A specific plan for your return will allow you a sense of normality. However, be aware, it will take time to “dust off the rust” and get caught up.
Talk about long-term goals with your manager soon after your return. Time away may give you new perspective in your role; your return may offer new opportunities to expand your skill set and set new goals.
Stay in touch
This one is the most important: keep in touch with your coworkers and manager. Check in to wish everyone well, plan time to introduce colleagues to your new bundle of joy, or go out to lunch to catch up. In your pre-baby life, you sometimes spent more time with your co-workers than you did with your significant other and family. Avoiding that lapse in communication will make coming back to work much easier!
Guidelines for the manager
Review your maternity policy and discuss a transition plan
Yes, this one is for you too! If your company does not have a maternity leave policy in place, now is the time to create one. Schedule a one-on-one meeting with the mother-to-be. Review the details of your policy, and discuss her current and anticipated workload. Do not forget to congratulate her!
Update your team and assign back-up
Connect with your team on their workloads to determine who has capacity to take on additional work. If you are considering a temporary replacement, have them start 15 to 30 days prior to your employee’s last day for training.
Conduct regular check-ins
Conduct regular meetings to review tasks and workloads of assigned back-ups. Make sure they document their progress and projects to ease your employee’s return. Also check in with your mom-on-leave; catch her up on important office news and ask about her little one.
Most importantly, remember that pregnancy can be unpredictable! Keep in mind, your maternity leave and return plan can and should be updated as needed.