Pickle Planet is pleased to welcome Shauna Cole, a New Brunswick mother and human resources professional, to share some insight for those of you transitioning between career and parenting, starting with the 17 questions you must ask your employer before going on maternity leave. Be sure to check out the links at the end of the article to her website and social media; you’re going to want to follow her!
Pregnancy and prepping for baby’s arrival is such an exciting time with so many moving pieces. You’ve been spending 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 biggest transitions of your life – making the leap from worker, to mom, to working mom. This transition is so significant you’re got to spend some time preparing for it, too!
As you think about the move to becoming a working parent, it’s important to recognize the value of planning for your transition both away from and back to work. You can start the journey here with the 17 questions you must ask your employer before going on maternity leave.
- What forms do I need to fill out to request my 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.
- Do I get paid by the company while on maternity leave?
Outside of government programs, some companies offer additional paid maternity, parental and/or paternity leave benefits. These benefits may match your full salary for the length of your maternity leave (yahoo!) or just some portion of your salary for a set period of the leave. Be sure to ask your employer if there are any such benefits. Get the details on the amounts, how the payments start, and end.
- How are my company benefits handled when I’m on 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 cheques for your portions of the benefits contributions through the leave periods. Don’t forget about other benefits like pension contributions or RRSP matching.
- What happens to my vacation?
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. However, be sure to clarify this with your employer as companies can have different policies on vacation accrual and usage.
- Am I still eligible for my full bonus, or is it a pro-rated?
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.
- How do I add my baby to my health 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; just add this one to the pile!
- 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.
- How can I stay connected to the company through my maternity leave?
If you’re an overachieving type A, career-minded mom, you probably want to stay connected to work. Ask your manager or Human Resources for some ideas on how to manage this productively. Give this some thought and be prepared to offer some suggestions too.
- Can I keep company assets that I use regularly?
Think about company assets that you use regularly, like your cell phone and laptop. Ask your employer if you can hang onto these items through your leave, if you want to, but be prepared for the answer to be ‘no’ depending on your company policy. There’s no harm in asking, though!
- Will the company continue to pay for my professional designation or licensing fees?
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 keep this up when you’re earning a maternity leave salary.
- 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.
- Can we setup a ‘keep in touch’ schedule?
I recommend you stay connected to your employer if your career is important to you. 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.
- 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, and two, it sends a firm message that you’re clearly committed to your career.
- 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.
- How will my return to work be managed?
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).
- Will I be returning to the same role post maternity leave?
You’re entitled to an equal job, not the same job, upon your return. Get an understanding of how your employer typically manages this. Despite mainstream belief, you might not be going back to the same role.
- How much will you miss me? 😉
Be prepared to not be missed. This isn’t a reflection of the value you bring to the company you work for but the reality of running a business. The business will continue to operate and your replacement may be totally competent – this can totally hurt the ego. Prepare for it and remember how awesome you are. After all, you just grew a human!
You could get all this information in a single meeting with the right person in your company, quite likely 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.
Wow – what a fantastic list! I know I didn’t think to ask barely any of these questions before taking my leave. If you’re ready to take this to your workplace, you can download this list of questions, complete with note-taking space, on Shauna’s site!
Shauna is a Chartered Professional in Human Resources with a Master’s Degree in Business and Undergraduate Degree in Communications. She lives in a house filled with boys; her partner and their two sons. You can find her on her website, on Facebook, and on Instagram. Watch for more of her columns on Pickle Planet, too!