Women and Their Managers Struggle with the “Big News”

Women are having children later in their careers and therefore have more responsibility on their plates when they start a family.  For those that want to maintain a fruitful career, they need to do a little extra work to make sure everyone at work (including their boss, employees, customers, and peers) know they are coming back as strong as ever.  

While every good manager puts on a happy face and genuinely congratulates the woman on her big news, they also secretly struggle with concerns about whether she will return after having the baby, if she’ll want to go part time, how this will impact team performance, and whether they need to begin recruiting now to backfill part or all of her work.  These are real concerns that affect team engagement, effectiveness, and morale.   

To help both the women planning families and the managers of these women cope better with these situations, check out these resources:  

  • Women planning families:  If you are planning a family (read the family planning definition first) and want to make sure your career trajectory stays on track, you should apply the advice in The Career-Family Formula™:  Three Steps Female Leaders Must Take When Planning a Family.  In this eBook, Suz O’Donnell, President and Lead Coach of Thrivatize LLC, shares tangible advice for ensuring everyone around you knows you are coming back to work after you have your baby and that you want to maintain an amazing career while your family grows.
  • Managers, Human Resources, and Diversity Officers:  Even in the most supportive environments, unconscious bias can make a pregnant woman feel like her career trajectory is at risk.  The more you can do to prevent these feelings, the more likely she is to come back feeling that you support her ongoing career development and success.  Check out Suz Graf O’Donnell, President and Lead Coach of Thrivatize LLC’s whitepaper The Overlooked Opportunity To Retain More Women In Leadership.  This whitepaper includes an engaging story of what can go wrong when well-meaning managers aren’t certain about the career desires of their employees who are planning a family.  It also highlights team performance risks and costs savings that you can address by properly preparing your female leaders for this big change in their lives.

   

Negotiate for a Better Maternity Leave

IMaternity-Leave-Proposalt’s no secret that maternity leave benefits in the US are lacking.  You know it’s bad when our own President fronts us out.  To quote him directly, “the United States is the only developed country in the world without paid maternity leave.”  But, we can’t let that get us down because bringing a child into this world is one of, it not THE most rewarding and important thing we can do to in our lifetimes.

The good news is that even when you think the deck is stacked against you and you’re concerned that you won’t get a fair shake when you ask for maternity leave, there are experts out there who have successfully helped women to not only get a fair maternity leave but also a great maternity leave.  Today I would like to introduce you to an expert in this area, Pat Katepoo.

Pat has been a work options advisor since 1993 and her website Work Options has been online since 1997. Thousands of busy professionals have found answers and relief through her services.  Pat says, “Women aren’t socialized to negotiate and so they are less inclined than men to ask for what they need or want. And research shows that often women fail to see their options or even think to ask for them.   So maybe you don’t know what you don’t know.”  Pat can help you see your options and ask for them.

Whether you choose her do-it-yourself guides or her personal services by phone you get practical help negotiating various work options to make your life calmer and easier. Options such as job flexibility, a fabulous pay raise, and more maternity leave and other time off.

Please take a few moments right now to visit Pat at WorkOptions.  I really think she’s the best in this subject area and definitely the most experienced.  I always keep a link to her site on the side of my blog posts because I think her services are so valuable to working women.  I’m an affiliate for Pat’s tools and resources so each purchase you make drops a few coins in the bucket to fund The Maternity Leave Coach, so “thank you” in advance.

 

Maternity Leave Laws in the US

Maternity Leave Laws

It is important for expectant mothers to review federal and state laws related to maternity leave as well as work/life benefits offered by their employer.  Read on to learn more about the laws that protect pregnant women in the workplace.

Federal and State Laws

The first step in planning your maternity leave is to understand your rights and benefits. You’ll need to pull out your employee handbook to see whether your employer gives you any paid leave for childbirth. But at a minimum, expectant mothers are protected by several federal laws in the U.S.

It’s illegal to discriminate against pregnant women, whether in hiring or an existing employment situation. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.   In the U.S., federal and state laws attempt to provide basic protections to pregnant women and their babies.

Here’s a rundown of two important laws that apply to leave taken after having a baby or adopting a child:

Read moreMaternity Leave Laws in the US

Adopting or Fostering? “Maternity Leave” for You Too

Any time I write about FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) I get a little nervous because for as much benefit and protection that it gives to parents, there are also so many twists and turns that it is easy to misinterpret. So, I’ll start this post off by recommending that you seek counsel and guidance from your company’s HR department and if that gets weird you may have to involve a labor and employment attorney.

Here’s the short answer on “Can I take FMLA leave to adopt or foster a child?” The answer is “yes” however there are some differences if you are not giving birth to the child yourself.

Many supervisors and employees think that FMLA is only there to provide leave for medical conditions (pregnancy being one) however it also applies when an employee (either male or female) has started the process to adopt or foster a child. Be sure to let your manager and HR know well in advance that you are in the process of adopting or fostering a child. If your company is obligated to follow FMLA guidelines you are entitled to leave before the actual placement of a child in your home when the absence is required in order for the adoption to proceed.

Read moreAdopting or Fostering? “Maternity Leave” for You Too

What You Wanted To Know – Doctor Appointments

pregnant-doctorToday when I looked at what search keywords are being used to find The Maternity Leave Coach it was very clear what’s on expectant mother’s minds… taking time off of work for doctor’s appointments. So, you ask and I deliver.  Here are some Q&A that will hopefully answer some burning questions.  AND… while you’re here be sure to check out the new Maternity Leave Prep Kit that will bring everything you need to know about preparing for maternity leave into one handy guide.  $9.99 is a small price to pay for the stress-relief of getting a plan in place.  Look to the right of the page to order your copy today.

Q. Can I use FMLA leave during my pregnancy or only after the birth of my child?

A. Yes. Employees can use FMLA leave during their pregnancy or after the birth of their child. Under the regulations, a mother can use 12 weeks of FMLA leave for the birth of a child, for prenatal care and incapacity related to pregnancy, and for her own serious health condition following the birth of a child. A father can use FMLA leave for the birth of a child and to care for his spouse who is incapacitated (due to pregnancy or child birth).

Read moreWhat You Wanted To Know – Doctor Appointments

Interview: Tom Spiggle – Author of “You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired!”

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Tom Spiggle of Spiggle Law.  I am so excited about his soon to be released book, You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired! and I wanted to be sure all my readers could get a sneak peek.  He’s a great guy who has helped many people who have been challenged with balancing work and family.  Although he represents employees in many different matters, Tom is especially interested in helping clients suffering discrimination because they are pregnant or have family-care issues, such as caring for a sick child or an elderly parent.

Read on to hear Tom’s advice for caregivers in the workplace…

Given that you’ve got four kids of your own, I can imagine it is easy for you to relate to the challenges of working parents.  What really sparked your interest in elevating the issues of caregivers in the workplace today?

Before I was a parent I didn’t realize how hard it would be to juggle it all.  Thankfully, my wife and I both had jobs that were sympathetic to family and I still wonder how it is all even possible without a supportive workplace.  In the US our laws that protect caregivers do a poor job of supporting families so what we really have to do work to enforce the few laws that we do have.  It’s all very complicated because there’s not one law that protects caregivers, but a number of laws that apply.  In many cases, because it is so confusing, there are HR departments who really aren’t sure how to apply the laws appropriately.  That’s why I wrote You’re Pregnant You’re Fired to put it all down into one book that covers all the ins and outs of your parental rights in the workplace.

Read moreInterview: Tom Spiggle – Author of “You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired!”

You’re Pregnant…You’re Fired!

This week the Huffington Post featured “Pregnant? 5 Ways to Protect Yourself From Discrimination at Work”.  Although it pains me that in our day and age we are still in a place where we need to publish a list like this, I am glad that there are folks out there informing women of their rights so they can be prepared.

The post’s author, Tom Spiggle, is also the author of “You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired! Protecting Mothers, Fathers, and Other Caregivers in the Workplace” which will hit shelves later this spring. He is founder of the Spiggle Law Firm based in Arlington, Va., where he focuses on workplace law specializing in helping clients facing discrimination due to pregnancy or other family-care issues, such as caring for a sick child or elderly parent.

Although I  don’t encourage people to be defensive, there are bosses out there who are either uninformed or unwilling to follow the laws when it comes to pregnancy and the workplace.  It is good to know you’ve got protections that you can use if push comes to shove (kind of a pregnancy pun too…sorry!).

Check out Tom’s tips and let us know if you’ve had any experiences with pregnancy discrimination.

 

 

Who’s Your Daddy and Why is He on Paternity Leave?

I just read a great article at Forbes.com about paternity leave and it’s benefits for babies, dads, AND moms.   I’m just curious… do you work with anyone who’s taken a full paternity leave?  In my experience new dads usually take about a week of vacation and they make sure to tell everyone they’re using vacation days just to be sure everyone knows they’re not milking the system for paternity leave.

Wouldn’t it be cool for a dad to say with pride, “I am taking the full benefit of my paternity leave (or FMLA) because becoming a new dad is awesome and I don’t want to miss a moment of it.”  I would venture to say that most new dads definitely feel that way but there are pressures (real or unspoken) to be at work or available for work 24/7.  Especially if the new dad is anxious about being the provider, anything that might rock the boat at work doesn’t seem like a good idea right around the time you’re adding to your family and have another mouth to feed.

So, the pressure keeps some dads from taking time off for the new baby. Are there stereotypes about what dad will do while he’s at home?  Like this promo photo from the classic 80’s movie “Mr. Mom”  Who wants to be this guy?

Mr. Mom

I’m just guessing that dads out there would rather think they’ll look like this (I guess moms wouldn’t mind either!)

David Beckham with Baby

Personally, nothing is more handsome, manly, responsible, mature and EMPLOYABLE than a man who takes care of his family.

What do you think?

What Happens If You Work for “Neanderthal Inc.”?

I am so excited to share a special guest post from my husband and biggest supporter.  Take a few minutes to hear his perspective on maternity leave.

For starters, I’m really proud of my wife for doing the Maternity Leave Coach blog and helping get useful topics/hints/suggestions out there that working women can use when they are on the verge of experiencing the most amazing event they will ever experience in their life. My wife asked me to chime in on a guest post, so we chatted about what I’ve experienced in my working life.

For starters, I’ve had a knack in my working life for working around and with companies that could also be labeled as “Neanderthal Inc.”  By that I mean that they are typically male dominated and may have a culture that is gruff and quite frankly doesn’t understand women and how to work with them or develop them so they are vital parts of the organization. Fortunately, my wife has mostly worked for large companies that have had fairly progressive policies when it comes to women and typically would go above any federal minimums when it came to maternity leave and benefits like that. So, it’s safe to say we’ve had different experiences over our almost 20+ years working. We were talking about her blog recently (did I mention I’m proud of her?) and why some women might not want to tell their managers they are pregnant or that they might be nervous about their future when there are laws to protect them. Here are some observations I’ve made over the years.

Read moreWhat Happens If You Work for “Neanderthal Inc.”?

Support Pregnant Workers – Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

There was big news last week but you probably missed it.  With all the focus and controversy about the Time breastfeeding cover, there was little attention to the announcement about an issue that we can all agree on.  Last Tuesday it was announced that legislation has been proposed that would protect women who need accommodation in the workplace while they are pregnant.  Today women are being discriminated against when they ask for accommodations like carrying a water bottle to stay hydrated or using a stool at their work station instead of standing through their entire shift.

Bonnie Rochman does a great job explaining the proposed act in her Time post.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: Should Expectant Women Be Accommodated in the Workplace? 

There are several organizations on board in support of the legislation and I hope you join me in rallying support as well.  Since it was just announced last week there aren’t yet a lot of details on how working moms can get involved, but I will keep you posted here.  In the meantime, read up on the proposed legislation and contact your Congressmen and Congresswomen to ask for their support.  Don’t know who your representative(s) are?  Click here and enter your zip code.

Spread the word and get others involved!  Let’s support pregnant workers!

Doctor Visits and Work – Planning for Pregnancy Care

“Will my boss let me off to go to my doctor’s appointments?” is a common question that I’ve heard from women newly pregnant who are actively involved in the workforce. If you consider that most pregnant women have between ten and 15 prenatal visits over the course of nine months, it’s understandable that this would be a concern.

To answer the question of whether or not your employer will let you off of work, I’ll answer with the “spirit” and then the” letter” of the law. From a “spirit” perspective, most employers will be understanding and as long as you aren’t pulling a fast one with your appointments, they will be accommodating. They will allow for the time off either from sick time allocation through FMLA or if you prefer, from your vacation allotment.

Read moreDoctor Visits and Work – Planning for Pregnancy Care

Pregnancy Discrimination Grows Like a Baby Bump – Not Good America!

Just read a  interesting (and depressing) post from Time about pregnancy discrimination.    Once again, I’m trying not to call foul and be the victim but come on.  As always, there are two sides to every story and no doubt maternity benefits are a weight on employers.  But how is it that other countries have figured it out?  Read the article here http://healthland.time.com/2012/02/16/pregnant-at-work-why-your-job-could-be-at-risk/

Read morePregnancy Discrimination Grows Like a Baby Bump – Not Good America!

Poor Performer Because I’m Pregnant? What Your Boss Really Thinks

I’ve talked to a few women who fear that their pregnancy or new mother status will reflect poorly on their manager’s and coworkers’ views of their performance.  In general I see it coming up as a concern when a women perceives that people are treating her differently because she’s pregnant or is a new mom.

Although there are thousands of scenarios, this difference of treatment can usually be traced back to a few root causes:

  • Most frequently I see that managers and co-workers are concerned about offending the new mom and they get weirded out and act strange.  Sometime they walk on eggshells and keep their distance so they don’t say the wrong thing.  In particular I’ve seen that men who work with pregnant women can be unsure of what they can say.  To the new mom, this can come off as being excluded, shut out or even shunned.  I recommend that if the new mom feels comfortable, that she just break the ice and  help everyone she works with ease into this transition.  You’ll get it all out in the open and know for sure where you stand.
  • The managers and co-workers are jerks and really are treating her differently because she’s pregnant or a new mom.  Unfortunately this does happen but I wouldn’t jump to it as the first conclusion.   If you are comfortable, speak with your manager about the situation.  If that’s not an option, speaking confidentially with HR can help sort things out.
  • Sometimes the mother’s performance really has dipped because of the physical and mental demands on her.  Most managers are understanding of this temporary situation.  Initiate the conversation and you may find that there are opportunities to adjust your workload or schedule to help during this time.
  • And finally, there are some mothers who have checked out and unfortunately used the excuse of  “I’m pregnant” or “I’m a new mom” to let their performance slide.  These few moms may have ruined it for the rest of us and you want to be sure that you aren’t inadvertently becoming one of  “those employees”.  Ask a trusted co-worker for feedback on your performance.  Meet frequently with your manager for status updates and to get a clear understanding of their expectations and whether or not you’re meeting them.
You may find yourself in a situation where you feel like you’re being treated differently.  Think through your situation, talk it over with non-biased third parties and then determine what you want to do about it.
If you’ve been in this spot and have some words of wisdom, I’d love to hear from you.