Click to Get Your Free Maternity Leave Proposal
Megan*, 33, is the head librarian and media coordinator for a large private prep school on the west coast. She’s a relatively new employee, having started 11 months ago. And she’s due to have her first child in a few months. An interesting mix of work-life challenges.
She consulted with me a few weeks ago to help her refine what she wants for maternity leave and for returning to work on a reduced schedule. In fact, she’s already sure about what she wants:
“I’d like to have a four-month maternity leave, a gradual return to work, and then work four days a week, with one day from home.”
She’s using Max Your Maternity Leave to develop her plan and strategy. So far, so good, right? But wait, there’s more.
Megan noted some nagging career and financial issues in her Custom Flex Strategy Session questionnaire, but as we addressed them during our phone call, she came to see them as manageable.
So we then turned our attention to the raise request she wanted to pitch at her one-year job performance review. With a plan to reduce her work schedule later, I stressed the importance of ratcheting up her salary as much as possible before having to pro-rate it after maternity leave.
Job performance is not an issue; Megan says her manager is thrilled with her work initiatives and achievements to date.
As a way to bolster her negotiation leverage, I advised Megan to find out the dollar amount her employer saves because she opts out of their health insurance coverage plan. (Her husband’s government job has a superior family plan.)
Here’s Where Things Get Instructive
Megan recently emailed me with a few follow up questions:
“I need to give them this [maternity leave] proposal before my performance review, which will be coming up soon. Should I ask for a 5-6% raise at the same time that I’m presenting my maternity leave proposal, or should I let that conversation be separate after my maternity leave proposal? I was really hoping for the job review before having to present the maternity leave proposal, but I’m not sure that I have that option.”
Let me challenge you to reply to Megan’s questions. What strategy would you suggest? How should she position her requests?
How do your answers compare with mine? Here’s the rest of our email exchange:
Should I ask for a 5-6% raise at the same time that I’m presenting my maternity leave proposal?
No, have the two discussions separately. The raise discussion connects with the performance review, and you want to keep that distinction clear.
I was really hoping for the job review before having to present the maternity leave proposal, but I’m not sure that I have that option.
Yes, that would be a better order of events. You want to secure the raise first and that happens at the job performance review. So, I’m going to encourage you to ASK for that OPTION. (I have a theme in my advice, can you tell?)
Here’s what to do: Let them know that you are crafting your maternity leave plan with consideration of both their needs and yours and that some of the specifics of the plan will be influenced by the outcome of your performance review. For that reason, you’d like to push up your performance review to (date), so that you can deliver a timely maternity leave proposal plan by (date).
Oh my goodness, it really is all about asking. Why is that such a hard hump to get over?! Even for a pretty good negotiator, which I definitely consider myself. Well, I just asked and of course got a YES. And I also asked HR about how much the school saves by me not using their health insurance and it’s $9,000/year. Wow.
Okay, the new order of things is as follows: performance review, maternity leave proposal, and then discussion about who will cover what while I’m gone. Phew. Much better. Thanks so much.
You’re not alone: sometimes, women don’t even think to ask. Nice going, and the $9K gives you lots of leverage. Your raise relates to your job performance, but it will be easier for them to say Yes to the higher end of the range when they are reminded of the value they save from the health insurance cost. Can’t wait to hear how this plays out. (See Update, below.)
What Can We Learn From This
I’m sharing this with you because I think it’s an excellent example of how we as women sometimes work against ourselves with assumptions: “I was really hoping for the review before the proposal, but I’m not sure that I have that option.” (Emphasis mine.)
Have you asked yourself a similar question for a situation at work or home? Are you ready to challenge it to improve your work-life situation?
Go ahead and ask. Have a strategy and position your request favorably, but ask. Like Megan, you’ll likely be wowed by the result.
*Name and identifying details changed to retain privacy.
Update: Megan reported back that she got some of her desired terms: A full 15 weeks of maternity leave followed by nine months of a four-day workweek (32 hours), working one day a week from home. After that, she plans to return to a five-day, full-time schedule with one day a week from home. The gradual return to work arrangement proved too complicated, she said, but that was eased by the four-day workweek arrangement she secured. She was granted a raise of 3%, which fell short of her goal of 5 to 6%, but overall, she is most pleased with the time off she will have with her son during the first year of his life.