More About an Employer's Role in a First Maternity Leave
When choosing to take a first maternity leave, a mother has a number of choices to make. As maternity leave is not guaranteed by statute in the United States of America, parents looking to start a family should figure out how they will be managing the process of taking time off work to have a baby. Many professional employers offer paid maternity leave as a perquisite of employment. This can be a great relief to many parents, as it means that there is one fewer decision to make.
For those whose employers do not offer paid maternity leave, there are a number of options. The most basic, and possibly least desirable, is to take unpaid leave for a duration of time after childbirth. Clearly this entails a loss of income, and so other options are often explored. Some new mothers choose to use paid leave or paid vacation days for the postnatal period. This has the advantage of maintaining income, but comes at the cost of future time off.
Another option is for a potential mother to pay for maternity leave insurance. This is an insurance policy that will cover lost income during the maternity leave period. There are also supplementary income insurance policies which can help cover expenses arising from pregnancy and childbirth, as well as any reduction of income in case the maternity leave is paid at a lower income.
Here are the top factors that working families are thinking of when planning a first maternity leave:
- How much time should I take at home with the baby? One quarter of mothers return to work within ten days of having a baby in the United States. However, for a first maternity leave many women would like to take more time, and on average women take ten weeks for maternity leave. With infants growing and changing every day, it can be impossible for a parent to not feel like they are missing huge parts of their baby’s growth. There are many online resources that catalogue developmental milestones, so a parent may find it helpful to familiarize themselves with the various stages of growth. For example, babies generally begin to smile at people around the age of two months. If a parent wants to make sure they are able to share their baby’s first smile, they may try to have their maternity leave extend into this window of time.
- How will I transition into balancing my work life and my new life as a parent? Just about every parent will tell you how life-changing the birth of a first child is. Many mothers anticipating the transition from their first maternity leave to a return to work opt for a phased return. For work that can be performed remotely, a mother can begin working while still caring for her baby at home. A smooth transition, where more and more work responsibilities are added over time, will help make it easier to balance caring for an infant and professional duties. For the nearly two out of three mothers that return to work after their first maternity leave, it may be beneficial to return to the workplace on an amended schedule. It can be hard to suddenly change gears from full time infant care to full time employment, and slowly increasing the amount of time worked per week can make the switch easier.
- Where will the baby be while I am working? Gone are the days when a woman would quit her job after having her first child. During the nineteen sixties, nearly two thirds of working women in the United States would quit their jobs after having their first child. Social changes and economic imperatives mean that more and more mothers continue to work after having a child. Part of a parent returning to work after a first maternity leave is finding child care. Some employers offer employee-sponsored child care. The employer may partner with a child care provider to provide care, or may offer a daycare tuition subsidy.