Tips for Planning and Negotiating your Parental/ Maternity Leave

Here is your go-to guide for planning your parental leave. This article is based on member stories, the perspective of experienced professionals, and careful research by PSP.


Planning Phase (Ending with a Parental Leave Proposal)

Before you write a parental leave proposal to present to your employer, there is some careful planning and things to consider.

Planning Tips:

  • Research, research, research. Find out what your legal (FMLA and disability) and employer policy entitlements are before you start planning.
  • Start conversations at work early. The beginning of the second trimester is when folks typically start spreading the news – and rallying support – with colleagues.
  • Identify your champions and allies.  Include all stakeholders in your planning process. Solicit their ideas, feedback and participation. Their input and support is critical during your negotiations, leave, and return.
  • Consider telecommuting part-time during pregnancy. Demonstrating it can work now will put you in a better position to negotiate this for your return.
  • Problem solve for your employer. Evaluate coverage options. For example, hiring interns, training junior staff, recruiting retired and freelance workers or job-sharing are potential solutions to cover your work.
  • Take initiative. For example, do you want to breastfeed, but there isn’t a space for that? Help create one. Collaboration and initiative are key.
  • Leave paper trails. Always send follow-up emails to your boss/colleagues about any off-boarding discussions. Keep copies these in a special place (and not on your work harddrive).
  • Remember partners have rights too! Consider FMLA partner/paternity leave

Your parental leave plan should include a contingency plan. If the unexpected occurs and you have considered contingencies, it will be a lot easier to bounce back. Your contingency plan should consider:

  • An “everything goes as planned” plan.
  • A “something is wrong with baby” plan.
  • A “something is wrong with mom” plan

Finally, BEFORE you move onto the negotiation phase with your employer:

  • Draft and Present a written parental leave proposal. Once you have the realistic options of your leave hammered out, write up a proposalthat includes:
  • Off-boarding work coverage (“Project A to be handled by Person x”)
  • Problem-solving strategies, length of leave (detailing all leave types used) 
  • Your communication and/or work availability during leave,
  • and most importantly, include your on-boarding plan as well. Ask friends and trusted colleagues for feedback and tweak as necessary.


Negotiation Phase:

Negotiating Tips:

  • Remember everything is negotiable.
  • Ask for more. This gives you wiggle room for a compromise.
  • Keep things professional. Requesting job flexibility is about your increased productivity, not about more quality time with your baby.
  • Take the initiative and don’t be scared to ask. Don’t wait for your boss/company to dictate how your pregnancy and maternity leave will happen.
  • Consider combining all leave available to you. This includes paid and unpaid vacation/leave, sick leave, FMLA, disability and maternity leave.
  • Get agreements in writing. If there are things that have been decided and promised, get it in writing and approved at the company level.
  • Document your off-boarding plans to the folks who will be taking charge. Circulate the final written details of your leave to the stakeholders you have been including since early on and be sure you have their final buy-in.



Further Reading on PSP:

Working Mother Topics

Back to Work With Baby

Breastfeeding and Pumping at Work

Your Rights: Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Beyond


Childcare Resources:

The PSP Guide to Hiring a Nanny

The PSP Guide to a Nanny Share

The PSP Guide to Finding and Securing a Daycare


Disclaimer:  This article has been written for educational purposes only by Park Slope Parents and should not be construed as legal advice.