This Q&A focuses on timing, for both announcing adoption/family leave plans and a request to return to work on a reduced schedule.
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Dear Pat: My husband and I have been on an adoption waiting list for nearly a year and it looks like a baby will be available for us within seven months. This will be our first child after trying to get pregnant for nearly four years; I want to spend as much time with my baby as possible.
Since I plan to take the full 12 weeks of family leave allowed under FMLA, how much notice should I give my boss about the adoption situation? When do I tell him?
Also, I’d like to return to work on a reduced schedule. Should I request that when I tell him I’m preparing to adopt or wait until I’m on family leave? Please help me with timing. ~ Rhena
Dear Rhena: Without a firm “delivery” date, the timing issue is tricky. Do your best to estimate a likely time frame when you’ll be bringing home your new baby. Then plan to tell him two to three months before that.
The exception to this guideline would be if some of your coworkers already know about your situation and you think word might get to your boss sooner through the office grapevine. It’s best if your boss gets the news from you first.
In either case, be flexible and ready with a game plan. Be the consummate professional who is prepared with a detailed maternity/family leave plan which includes your suggestions for work coverage during your absence.
Develop this plan now; you want to be ready on short notice in case word leaks out about your being on the waiting list or if the adoption opportunity comes up more sooner than you anticipated.
When to Request a Return to Work on a Reduced Schedule
As to your other question, deciding whether to propose the part-time hours plan before, during or after your family leave is a judgement call. The nature of your work and the impact of your absence (because of specialized talents, established client relationships, staffing issues, etc.) are considerations.
In other words, your decision about timing might depend on how well you think things will go (or won’t go) without you; it may be that during your absence your boss develops a heightened appreciation of your value as an employee and thus be more willing to support your reduced hours request if that means you’ll stay with the job instead of quitting. Under these conditions, your proposal for part-time might be well-received during your family leave.
An alternative approach allows you to return to work on a reduced leave schedule under a little-known provision of FMLA.
This phased-back return to work can be presented professionally, positively and as a “package plan” wherein your full-time family leave would be only eight or 10 weeks instead of the allowed twelve, and the remaining leave hours would be used in a reduced workweek fashion. Those weeks of transition period then act as a trial period for a long-term plan of reduced workweek hours.
Along with these suggestions, carefully assess your job, the office politics and personalities, your options and priorities to help you determine the best time frame to present your family leave and part-time schedule plans.
If you decide to make the request for a flexible work arrangement during your family leave, again, be ready with a detailed proposal and plan.