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 that needs to happen.
- Research, research, research. Find out what your legal (FMLA, NYPFL, NYS Paid Safe and Sick Leave, and disability) and employer policy entitlements are before you start planning.
- Check whether bonus accrual is or isn’t included in paid leave.
- Figure out policies on advancement during leave (will your tenure "clock" be stopped?)
- Research current best practices at other companies.
- 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.
- Develop a strong relationship with HR so that you can get answers and maximize benefits according to your needs.
- 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
- A “something is wrong with partner” plan (if relevant).
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 proposal that includes:
- Off-boarding work coverage (“Project X to be handled by Person Y”)
- Problem-solving strategies, length of leave (detailing all leave types used)
- Your communication and/or work availability during leave
- Most importantly, include your on-boarding plan as well. Ask friends and trusted colleagues for feedback and tweak as necessary. Consider a gradual return—e.g., returning midway through the week and easing back in by starting with part-time hours or part-time remote work.
- Remember everything is negotiable.
- Ask for more. This gives you wiggle room for a compromise. Consider it a proposal ("I would like to take...") rather than a question ("Can I take...").
- Remember your worth. It’s not that easy to replace a good employee.
- Negotiate on a "trial" basis—e.g., "I'd like to try coming back to work part-time for a month to see how it's working out" so as to allow room for adjustment later on.
- Cite practices at other companies, but also encourage your employer to be a leader and standard-bearer if you feel this would go over well.
- State the case that it is great PR for a company to have good parental leave policy. It's not only a gender equality issue, but also relates to race and class. One PSP member recommended checking out PL+US: Paid Leave for the United States for more info and guidance.
- 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.
- Always say you will be returning at the latest possible date. If you come back early, great, but it's much easier to come back earlier than expected than later.
- 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:
Disclaimer: This article has been written for educational purposes only by Park Slope Parents and should not be construed as legal advice.