If you’re working while planning to expand your family, there’s much more to prepare than the layout of your nursery. Whether you are pregnant (or your partner or surrogate is) or getting ready to adopt or foster a child, don’t forget to consider how this major life change will affect your job—and how your employer may be able to lend support before, during, and after you welcome your new child.

From healthcare benefits and parental leave to adoption or childbirth support, your employer may offer some valuable helpOpens in a new window that you won’t want to miss. Besides understanding your benefits, you should also get acquainted with your rights and decide how you'd like to share the news at work.

With so much to prepare for, we put together a four-step guide to help you navigate your career while you're waiting for your newest addition to the family.

Four things to do at work when you’re expecting

Step 1: Research your benefits and rights

As soon as you know you’re welcoming a new addition, pull out that employee handbook and look into your company’s policies regarding:

  • Adoption benefits, if you haven’t already researched them.
  • Parental leave.
  • Short-term disability insurance.
  • Flexible work policies.
  • Employee assistance programs, such as pregnancy or adoption support.

Don’t have your handbook? Talk with human resources and ask that it remain confidential.

Get familiar with your rights:

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

This U.S. Department of Labor law requires covered employers to provide qualifying employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year.

Federal and state protections against pregnancy discrimination

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Step 2: Share the news

Maybe you’re so excited that you want to tell everyone. Or maybe you’re a bit nervous and planning to confide in only your best work buds. (We get it, especially if you’ve been patiently trying to get pregnant or waiting on an adoption.) But take a breath. There’s one person you should absolutely tell first.

Whom to tell first – your boss

Keep things brief and professional. If possible, share the news in person.

Possible exception

If you have reason to believe your boss may respond negatively, consider sharing the news with Human Resources before you decide how to move forward.

Tip

You don’t have to commit to a plan yet regarding your parental leave. Give yourself time to think things through—but do give a timeline for when your boss can expect more details.

When to tell your boss about a pregnancy

Of course, this is a very personal decision, but many people wait until the end of the first trimester or beginning of the second trimester.

Possible exception

If you’re pregnant and have difficult early symptoms that can affect your ability to work, like extreme nausea, you may need to share the news earlier.

Why?

  • The chances of miscarriage go down around this point in the pregnancy.
  • If you’re the one who’s pregnant, you may start to show.
  • This timing gives your colleagues plenty of notice to plan how they’ll cover extra duties during your parental leave.

Step 3: Make plans for your leave and your return

What should you consider?

How long to take

This will depend on company policy and your own preferences.

How you’ll come back

You may want a soft return (see below).

When to share

Aim to firm up your plans three months before your child is expected.

Colleagues and friends who are already parents may offer helpful insight.

What is a “soft return”?

Some companies will allow new parents to work part-time and or work from home a few days a week when they first return from leave. Explore the options and make sure the agreed-upon plan is well-communicated to your boss and your colleagues.

Important detail!

If you plan to breastfeed, ask where you’ll be able to pump at work.

Step 4: Consider childcare options

Don’t spend your parental leave stressing about childcare.

Explore your options in the months leading up to your leave and ask if your employer offers:

  • Referrals for childcare.
  • A corporate discount at a local or national daycare center.
  • Dependent care F S A employer match. Some companies will match a percentage of your contribution into a Flexible Spending Account for dependent care.

Author: Anne Shaw
Source: The MuseOpens in a new window