How to Get Better Parental Leave

The United States famously has some of the worst maternity and paternity leave policies in the world, with zero weeks of paid leave mandated, and only three months of unpaid leave. (And that’s if you work for a company with more than 50 people.) So what’s a parent-to-be to do?

First of all, don’t assume that your company’s official policy is the last word on the subject. Amy Gallo at Harvard Business Review spoke with several experts on parental leave policies, and many agreed that it’s worth trying for more time, or more paid time.

“Even when there is a policy, employees often negotiate a better situation for themselves,” says Denise Rousseau, author of “I-Deals: Idiosyncratic Deals Workers Bargain for Themselves.”

The next step is to find out what your company’s policy is. Review the employee handbook, or better yet, talk to someone in HR, to find out what your company offers and doesn’t offer. It might be more than you think: Families and Work Institute’s 2012 National Study of Employers found that the average leave was 14 weeks — two weeks more than the mandated time off stipulated by the Family Medical Leave Act.

Of course, time off doesn’t necessarily mean paid time off: Gallo found that only 9 percent of companies offered fully paid leave. To find out what accommodations the company has made in the past, she suggests asking around to find out what your colleagues were able to arrange.

Finally, when you do go talk to your manager, she suggests approaching it “as a problem you’re hoping to solve together, not a demand or threat.”

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(Photo Credit: Leslie Duss/Flickr)