At some time or another, your business is likely to have female employees who are about to enter a new chapter in their life: motherhood. While this time is exciting, preparing for maternity leave can be stressful. Your employees will likely have many questions and concerns about their time away from work. Here are some suggestions on how to prepare so that you can have productive discussions with your employees about maternity leave.
Leave Time and Benefits
Schedule a meeting with your employee well in advance of her due date. Encourage the employee to take notes during your discussion and keep any documents received. Discuss the following:
- Eligibility for benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Determine how much leave time is still available and whether the leave is tracked concurrently with short-term disability (STD) benefits.
- Your group STD program and benefits she may be eligible to receive. Also discuss state-provided STD benefits, if available.
- Any state regulations regarding paid or unpaid maternity, medical, and/or family leave. Let your employee know how to apply for any available benefits.
- Status of the employee’s accrued paid sick, vacation, or personal time and how it can be used during the leave.
- Details about what happens to benefits, such as health, life, and disability insurance and 401(k), while the employee is on leave. Let the employee know how to pay any health and other insurance premiums while she is out.
- Policy and process details in the event the employee needs to take additional time off. Is a physician’s statement required? Can she use sick or personal time to cover the additional absence? Will the additional time be counted under FMLA?
Ensure that your employee has the information she needs to report her maternity leave, such as:
- Telephone numbers for her supervisor and human resources contact
- Website or telephone number to report her disability claim and/or FMLA leave to your company’s insurance carrier
- Forms needed to report her absence (e.g., disability claim form, physician’s statement)
If the employee has additional questions, suggest that she talk to your human resources department and visit your state’s labor, disability, or employment website.
Transitioning Your Employee’s Work
Prior to maternity leave, your employee should meet with her supervisor or manager to discuss her leave and make arrangements to cover her responsibilities. The employee should provide a written overview of current projects and should suggest co-workers who can cover these areas in her absence. Once a plan is in place, have the employee schedule time with co-workers to familiarize them with her projects and related duties.
Even though your employee is on leave, she may want to be kept up to date on certain projects. Ask her if, how (e.g., email, telephone, or text) and when employees should contact her if questions arise and to provide the appropriate contact information.
Finally, make sure that your employee has followed up on any outstanding emails and voice mails and also has made arrangements to redirect any incoming telephone calls, voice mails, and emails while she is on leave.
In addition, it’s important to always consult with your company’s human resources and/or legal departments when dealing with such matters. Helping your employees prepare for maternity leave can help them enjoy this important time in their lives and ensure that you can keep their work moving during their absence.