Navigating pregnancy benefits at work can be a pain, especially if you’re having your first child or you’re new to a company. Do you get 12 weeks or six months? Will you have to use your PTO? The best companies will have an employee handbook that details your benefits, but not all of your questions will be answered, so you’ll want to schedule a meeting with your human resources representative to discuss your options, benefits, and manage your expectations. If you don’t have an HR department, meet with your manager.
Here are 10 benefits questions you need to ask HR when you’re expecting:
Do you pay for maternity leave? For how long?
More than 87 percent of women believe employers should provide fully paid maternity leave. The problem is that many don’t. According to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), companies with 50 or more employees (and a few other stipulations) are required to give employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. That means, if your company doesn’t offer paid leave, you might have to forgo your paycheck while you’re getting acquainted to motherhood. Find out exactly what your company covers and for how long. Some offer 100 percent paid maternity leave, others partial. If neither, you will want to look into short-term disability and see if you qualify.
Do I have to use PTO for doctors visits?
Taking time off work isn’t easy, especially if you work long hours. Before taking your maternity leave, you’ll have to make frequent visits to the doctor, and you don’t want to use a sick day every time you do. Ask your HR representative or your employer if you’ll be able to take time out of your days without interruption. Even if it means staying an hour later, it’s better to know upfront that it won’t be a problem.
Can I take off additional time if I need it?
You can plan all you want, but you can’t predict certain things like needing bedrest, feeling post-baby exhaustion, or dealing with postpartum depression. Before you get to that point, ask if you’ll have the option of taking extra time. Your employer might be flexible on the time but not the pay, or they might need you to return as soon as your maternity leave ends.
What are my pregnancy and family-related benefits?
You might be surprised to learn that your company offers pregnancy and family-related benefits. At PricewaterhouseCoopers, for example, new mothers are offered many perks, including a phased return to work, surrogacy assistance, a Just-In-Case program for emergency backup child care, and mentorship for balancing work and parenting. They also offer discounts on breastfeeding equipment and mothers’ rooms where mothers can nurse and store milk (rather than hiding in a stall). Ask your company what benefits are available to you.
Who will take on my duties when I’m on maternity leave and will I still have my exact role when I return?
You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and you don’t want your new status of “mom” getting in the way of your career. Find out exactly what your employer plans to do while you’re away. It might take a few days, or a few weeks, for them to decide the best plan of action, but make sure you’re involved in the discussions so you’re not out-of-the-loop. Some companies will bring on temporary help; others might ask coworkers to step in and split the work.
Your job itself is protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, but we know pregnancy discrimination still happens. Learn how to recognize it and what to do when it happens.
What do you need me to do before I take maternity leave?
Preparing for motherhood isn’t easy, but preparing to take off 12 weeks or longer isn’t easy either. Make sure you plan ahead, as best as you can, and find out exactly what your company needs you to do before you begin your maternity leave.
Can I work remotely?
Remote work is becoming more and more popular, with more than 70 percent of global employees working from home at least once per week. You may not currently work from home, but you might be able to post-baby. Ask about your company’s flexible work options and see if you can work remotely once, twice, or more days per week. This could save you on child care costs, or could give you some extra time to simply be home and avoid the commute.
Will you keep me updated while I’m on maternity leave?
When you’re on maternity leave, you likely can’t check your work emails or deal with clients because of legal reasons—not that you’ll have time for that anyway. You do, however, want to be informed of major changes so you’re not completely blindsided when you return to work. Chances are, you won’t miss much, but what if half the staff is laid off or the company decides to merge with another company. Make sure you’ve set the ground rules for communication while you’re away.
What paperwork needs to be signed before I leave?
Most companies will expect you to sign agreements regarding maternity leave, so ask what’s required of you, when it needs to be returned, and take time to review all of the terms and conditions before you sign.
Will retirement and other contributions continue while I’m on maternity leave?
You might not be thinking about your retirement savings amid this new life change, but you should. If you’re on maternity leave, with only a few weeks paid leave, but you take your full allotted time, you should know what, if anything, is put on hold during that time. Chances are your accounts and contributions will continue uninterrupted, but make sure you ask.
How do I add my new baby to my insurance policy?
When you have a baby, there is a lot of unexpected paperwork, but health insurance should be at the top of your list. You’ll want to make sure your ultrasounds, your blood draws, and your hospital stay are covered, but you also want to make sure your baby is covered from day one.
Not all pregnancies are planned and not all employees ask about pregnancy-related policies before taking a job, which is why it’s important to get answers to all of the above. If you’re wondering what companies have the best maternity and adoptive leave, check out our top 20 list.