If you’re expecting, or plan to start a family one day, learn your rights and how you can embrace motherhood and protect your career. Having a baby should be one of the happiest times of your life. But an unsupportive work environment can leave you wrought with anxiety. More than 3,100 women filed pregnancy discrimination charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2017. There’s a lot of confusion about maternity leave from whether you can legally be fired, to the deal with FMLA, to whether your employer can change your job while you’re out. If you’re expecting, or plan to start a family one day, read on to learn what your rights are and how you can embrace motherhood without compromising your career.
Keep in touch
Did you know you’re allowed to work for up to 10 days while you’re on maternity leave without it affecting when your leave ends or your maternity leave payments? These days are called keeping in touch (KIT) days. You and your employer must agree to them and the type of work you’ll do before your leave starts – as well as how much you’ll get paid – as KIT days are optional. You could, for instance, use your KIT days to go on training days or workshops, or to attend meetings or conferences. In fact you can do any type of work on a KIT day, and you don’t even have to work a full day. It can be a useful way of keeping up with what’s happening at the office, including meeting new colleagues or clients and getting up to speed with any changes taking place that will affect you when you return. You may also want to use your KIT days towards the end of your maternity leave to help ease you back into work gradually.
Your employer has a legal right to reasonable contact with you while you’re on maternity leave. This means they may get in touch with you by email, letter or phone – or even at a meeting in the workplace. But what is reasonable can vary from 1 person and workplace to another. Reasonable contact can be positive for employees on maternity leave too. You may want to be kept in touch with things such as changes at work that will affect you, training, work or social events and job vacancies while you’re away. Perhaps you also want to receive company newsletters or details of meetings and projects you’ve been working on while you’re on maternity leave, as they can help to make you feel part of your working environment while you’re not there, not to mention make your return to work easier. The amount of reasonable contact and the method of contact should be agreed with your employer before you start your maternity leave, though you can change these details with agreement from your employer once your leave has begun.