Maternity leave planning—16 essential questions to ask your employer

3. Am I entitled to benefits when on maternity leave?


Pregnancy and prepping for baby's arrival is such an exciting adventure, but it comes with so many moving pieces. I know you've spent lots of time researching the latest baby gear and playgroups in your area. But how much time have you spent planning for your own transition?

You're about to go through what's likely to be one of the most significant transitions of your life as you make the leap from worker to mom to working mom. As you think about becoming a working parent, it's important to recognize the value of planning for your transition away from, and back to, work.

Start the journey here with the 16 questions you should ask your employer before going on maternity leave.

1. What forms do I need to fill out to request my maternity leave?

Your employer will have some administrative details as well as some planning to complete to prepare for your leave. Find out what forms you need to complete to initiate those processes, when you should submit them and who to send them to.

2. Do I get paid by my company while on maternity leave?

Outside of government programs, some companies offer additional paid maternity, parental or paternity leave benefits. These benefits can match your full salary for the length of your maternity leave (yahoo!) or just a portion of your salary for a set period of the leave. Be sure to ask your employer if there are any such benefits. Get written details on the amounts, how the payments start and end.

3. Am I entitled to benefits when on maternity leave?

Depending on your benefits structure, you might be paying for a portion of your benefits through payroll deductions. Find out how your employer administers benefits through leave, and if you need to make any special arrangements. For example, submitting post-dated checks for your potions of the benefits contributions through the leave periods.

Don't forget about other benefits like pension contributions or registered retirement savings plan matching.

4. Does my maternity leave affect my vacation time?

Vacation is typically based on years of service (if you're on salary). This means maternity leave shouldn't, in theory, have any impact on your vacation. You should be able to use your vacation immediately before or after your maternity leave. Be sure to clarify this with your employer as companies can have different policies on vacation accrual and usage.

5. Am I still eligible for my full bonus, or is it a prorated?

If you receive a bonus outside of your base salary, make sure to understand how your company manages this through leave. Depending on the eligibility criteria, you could expect to receive a portion or no bonus at all through the leave period.

6. How do I add my baby to my health insurance benefits?

Find out the company's process for this while you're still pregnant. You're probably going to need to fill out a form to make this happen. Make sure you get a copy of the form, the details on where to send it and how long to expect to get your new benefits cards. You'll have lots of forms to complete when the baby arrives so add this one to the pile.

7. How can I contribute to a successful onboarding of my replacement?

Set yourself and colleagues up for continued success through this transition by participating in the onboarding of your replacement. Be sure to take your manager's lead here and ensure your involvement in the onboarding is appropriate.

8. How can I stay connected to the company through my maternity leave?

You may want to stay connected to work (if not, that's okay!). Ask your manager, or Human Resources department for some ideas on how to manage this productively. Give this some thought and be prepared to offer some suggestions too.

9. Can I keep company assets while on maternity leave?

Think about company assets that you use regularly. Your cell phone and laptop, for example. Ask your employer to hang onto these items through your leave, if you want to. Be prepared for the answer to be 'no' depending on your company policy. But hey, there's no harm in asking.

10. Will the company continue to pay for my professional designation or licensing fees during my maternity leave?

If you're in a profession that requires a designation or license and your company currently pays, find out if the benefit still stands while you're on leave. You don't want a surprise bill for hundreds of dollars to creep up when you're earning maternity leave salary.

11. Will the company continue to pay for my education through maternity leave?

If you're currently enrolled in some sort of training program that you would like to continue through maternity leave, clarify the company policy on this.

12. Can we set up a 'keep in touch' schedule?

I recommend you stay connected to your employer. You should plan how frequently you will connect with the right person in your organization before you go on leave. This is subject to change, based on how you are feeling. The schedule should be something you feel you can manage.

13. What's the best way to stay informed of ongoing organizational change and opportunities for career progression?

If you're interested in continued career growth and progression, make sure this is part of the discussion before you go on maternity leave. Bringing this up does two things. One, it makes sure you stay in the loop. Two, it sends a clear message that you're clearly committed to your career.

14. When will my performance review be administered?

This also serves as a reminder that you're committed to your career. Request a performance review before going on leave to close the loop on projects you'll be handing over.

15. How will I return to work after maternity leave?

Ideally, you don't wait until the last minute to start planning for your return to work. Talk with your employer about appropriate timing to reconnect and plan the details of getting back to the office. Coordinate all the logistics well in advance (childcare, parking, morning routine, meals, etc.).

16. Will I be returning to the same role after my maternity leave?

Get an understanding of how your employer typically manages how your transition back into your role after maternity leave. Your role could have been adjusted while you were out of the office so it's important to understand how they handle any changes.

Bonus tip!

You could get all this information in a single meeting with the right person in your company. It might be your Human Resources person. Treat the meeting like a fact-finding meeting. Take notes and send an email to confirm the details you discussed, so you have a record.

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