If you are a mom-to-be who works outside
the home 40+ hours a week, it's likely your standard maternity leave
will be a mere six weeks, then it's back to the job, full-time.
For many new moms, returning to full-time work after six weeks is
often a logistical challenge with built-in work/family conflict issues,
and no less an emotional struggle as being away from a
newborn weighs heavy on the heart.
What if instead you had a phased-back arrangement to ease the
back-to-work transition? You would return to your job after the standard
maternity leave period, yet work fewer hours than full-time for a
pre-set, limited number of weeks.
This would allow you more time to be with your new baby while you
preserve some of your earned income.
Most employers have no ready-made policies for a phased-back
maternity leave, so you’ll have to be the one to take the initiative. Here's one approach:
Phase-back to Work Using FMLA
In a little-known provision of the Family
& Medical Leave Act (FMLA*), you can arrange a reduced leave
schedule during all or part of the allowed leave time.
*Quick review of FMLA, a complex, US law: If you
worked for at least 12 months and for at least 1,250 hours during the
last year for an employer with 50 or more employees or for a public
agency of any staff size, the FMLA allows you to take unpaid,
job-protected family or medical leave for up to 12 weeks within a 12
month period for specific reasons including the birth or adoption of a
child, or the placement of a foster child. For more details, go to:
So, for example, your six weeks of standard maternity leave could be
followed by the ‘phase-back’ segment of working two to three days a
week for six weeks, before resuming full-time hours again.
Remember, once any employer-paid leave is used up, the remainder of
the 12 weeks may be unpaid, and you would not be eligible for
unemployment compensation during this time. While you may not be
able to afford unpaid leave for the entire time, by devising a
phase-back arrangement, you can have more precious time to nurture your
baby even as you resume your earnings.
This approach is allowed by law under FMLA with the following
condition: you and your must both agree to the arrangement. This means
your employer can’t impose it on you if you don’t want such an
arrangement; nor is the employer required to allow it if you do want it.
Both if it’s mutually agreeable, it’s a lawful way to use part of
your family leave.
Proposal to Get the Boss's Agreement
can you get your employer to agree to a reduced workweek?
The time-proven way is to
present a well-crafted, persuasive proposal to your immediate boss that
addresses not only your scheduling needs, but also your employer's
bottom-line interests. Get the boss’s approval of your carefully
outlined plan and the mutual agreement condition you need is in place.
If your employer is not
covered under FMLA, go ahead and propose a similar approach to your
maternity leave anyway. Many working mothers in similar situations have
done it successfully and have reaped a bounty of new-mom/new-baby
thrills as a result.
It’s a good idea to
package your phase-back proposal as part of your overall maternity leave
work-coverage plan. If you’re already on maternity leave, submit your
proposal as soon as possible.
Phasing back to work from
maternity leave is a coveted work/family balance management technique.
Use the provisions of the FMLA to help you get the transition schedule
Pat Katepoo is founder of
WorkOptions.com and author/developer of the popular e-workbook, Flex Success: A Proposal Blueprint & Planning Guide for Getting a Family-Friendly Work Schedule.
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