For working parents-to-be, planning for your baby’s arrival means far more than picking out furniture, packing a bag, and having the doctor’s number memorized. There are also a number of work and financial issues to consider. Whether your maternity/paternity leave is for a few weeks or several months, this checklist will help streamline the transition from workplace to home and back again.
1. Give plenty of advance notice.
Before you plan to take your leave, make sure your colleagues are aware of how long you expect to be out. If you do not know how long you’ll be gone, it is important you clarify this with your colleagues, e.g., “I plan to return after Thanksgiving, but it may change by a couple of weeks.” To help ensure you don’t miss an important meeting or deadline, consider blocking out extra time on your calendar a few weeks before and after your planned leave to give you some additional flexibility.
2. Spread your workload around.
If possible, instead of giving all your assignments to one person, delegate them to different colleagues. It may be far easier for several associates to each take on a few tasks than for a single one to try to handle them all. You may want to work with management to determine who’s best suited for each project or client. And be sure to leave ample time to bring everyone up to speed.
3. Have individual face-to-face meetings with those covering your work.
Schedule time to relay information and answer questions. Bring written documents and notes to pass on to your colleagues and be sure to forward any electronic files they need. The more information they have in your absence, the better.
4. Contact clients about your leave.
Make sure to send a written communication, via email or mail, notifying clients of your leave and who to contact in your absence.
5. Prioritize and, if possible, push off.
Let your colleagues know what needs to be taken care of first, and what can wait. If a project is low priority or has a lot of lead time, see if it can be put on the back burner until you return.
6. Ready your “away” messages.
Before you go, make sure you have away messages set for your email and voicemail. Include information about who should be contacted in your absence.
7. Schedule time with human resources.
In addition to letting management know, it’s also important to touch base with your human resources department. Schedule a sit-down to go over how your leave will affect your health, insurance, dental, and other benefits. Will you be getting any paid leave? If so, for how long? Will your insurance coverage continue? Will you have to pay out-of-pocket for your employer’s portion of your health care coverage during your leave? Will your retirement contributions stop while you’re on leave? What is the process to sign your baby up for insurance benefits?
8. Check on your state’s benefits too.
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) requires all companies in the U.S. with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of the worksite to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave along with continuation of group health insurance coverage. However, only a handful of states: California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York and Washington, currently mandate that employees receive paid maternity/paternity leave. In addition to your company’s benefits, look at the coverage your state may offer, including disability. Also check on what your benefits and rights are if you live in one state but work in another.
9. Consider prepaying your Flexible Savings Account (FSA) contributions.
If you will not be receiving pay during your leave, you may want to prepay your FSA contributions before you take off, to ensure you don’t miss out on the maximum benefit. If you continue to receive a paycheck while you’re on leave, your FSA contributions should continue to be automatically deducted from your salary. Check with your HR department to be sure.
10. Cover your infant
When you give birth, your newborn will be automatically eligible for medical coverage from your insurance provider. Then you will have up to 30 days to enroll your baby in your plan. If you and your significant other have different insurance plans, make sure to enroll the child in the plan you prefer. In order to sign up your baby for coverage you’ll need to submit the child’s birth certificate and Social Security number. If you give birth in a hospital, the hospital will help you with both documents. If you adopt, or give birth outside of a hospital, download this brochure from the Social Security Administration for information and instructions. www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10023.pdf
11. Be reasonably reachable.
It’s important, and may be legally required, for your workplace to respect your boundaries and not get in touch regarding work issues during your leave. However, if there’s news about a change to your benefits or a decision that needs to be made (such as your open enrollment choice) you should let your HR department know how to reach you.
12. Plan your return.
A few weeks before your leave time winds down, send a reminder about your expected first day of work. Let your colleagues know if you’ll be back on a full-time or a part-time basis, or if your hours will be different. Again, set your boundaries.
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