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how to handle maternity leave - expecting mother sitting at her work station

How to Handle a Maternity Leave

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Which steps would you take if an employee announced that she is pregnant? Would you let this person take as much time away from the office as they want? Would you wonder who is going to do their work?

As a company owner, you must have a "maternity leave" policy in place. That being said, it is important to note that you are not calling all the shots. There are maternity leave laws in place that require you to provide a certain level of benefits to any woman who is having a baby.

Before we get into the laws that may pertain to your business, here are three steps that will allow you to more effectively manage an employee's maternity leave:

1. Create a policy. With a standard policy included in your employee handbook, there are no questions of what will happen during an employee's maternity leave. The company itself, as well as the employee, will know what to expect during this time.

2. Plan as far in advance as possible. Work with the employee, in advance, to determine how her workload will be covered. Obviously, you cannot afford for this person's work to be overlooked during her time away from the company.

3. Don't be difficult. As challenging as it may be to deal with a maternity leave, don't overlook the fact that your employee is doing her best to find a new balance in her life. Be flexible along the way, ensuring that everything works out in the long run.

With all that in mind, here are the laws pertaining to maternity leave:

Note: there are state laws to be aware of as well. These vary from one state to the next.

These laws are not up for discussion. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act "entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave."

As a business owner, handling maternity leave is not as complicated as it sounds. As long as you know the laws and have a plan, this time will go by without any major issues.