Don't wait until you're showing to hammer out an acceptable leave of absence. Taking the lead will put you in a better bargaining position.
Step 1: Know your legal rights Know your rights. If you have worked for your company for one year, have worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous year, and the firm has at least 50 employees, federal law entitles you to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. A few states offer paid leave, so check your local laws.
Step 2: Know your company's policy Know your company's policy. Some firms – especially large ones – offer paid maternity leave packages.
Step 3: Decide what you want Know what you want before approaching your boss. Do you plan to take a few weeks, or a few months? Do you want to return to the same job, or request a new position that offers more flexibility? Can you use your vacation days so that part of the leave is paid?
Step 4: Have a plan Before speaking to your employer, formulate a plan that works for both you and the company. Be ready with solutions as to how your responsibilities will be covered while you're gone. Flesh out as many details and options as possible.
Step 5: Inform the company in a timely manner Inform the company in a timely manner. The news is apt to be better received if you tell them before they've guessed it.
TIP: Emphasize the company's needs, not yours, when you're explaining your maternity leave plan.
Step 6: Leave on a good note If you change your mind about returning to work after your maternity leave, offer to go in for a few weeks to tie up loose ends so you leave the company on a good note.
FACT: The United States and Australia are the only countries in the industrialized world that don't require employers to offer paid maternity leave.