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Negotiating Pregnancy & Your Job

By Elizabeth T. Jordan, DNSC, RNC, FAAN

Negotiating Pregnancy & Your Job

Pregnancy is an exciting time—but it can be an anxious time, especially if you’re like most women and currently hold a job outside of your home. While it may seem your coworkers will warmly welcome your happy news, the sad truth is that many women are treated unfairly or let go after they share their pregnancy plans, federal experts say.

If you work in company or organization with 15 or more employees, you have protections for your job under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. And under the Family & Medical Leave Act, you can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if you work in a firm with 50 or more employees.

More than 80% of moms return to work within 12 weeks of giving birth, according to the Labor Department. Still, most employment experts recommend women take the following actions before announcing a pregnancy or negotiating how any leave may be structured with an employer:
• Know what you’re entitled to: Review your employee manual and other HR documents related to family or medical leave or time off
• Determine how much time you’ll need: Ask for the longest amount of leave possible knowing it will be a bonus for your colleagues if you gradually return to full-time work or even end leave early
• Learn what others have done: This will help you assess what’s been successful so far in your organization
• Explore alternatives: Are you willing to work part-time during any part of leave? Be available for meetings or telephone calls? Are there circumstances where you can you work from home?
• Be flexible: Be willing to be a ‘case study’ for alternative leave options your employer may suggest; a successful leave is one that works both for you and your family, and your employer

Postpartum Pumping Plans
Thanks to recent changes in federal laws, you can continue to provide your baby the important benefits of breast milk via pumping once you return to work. If you return or go to work, your employer is required to provide time and a place for you to pump breastmilk.
• Start planning for pumping before giving birth. Let your employer know that you plan to pump milk for your baby when you return
• Make your case with tips from the federal program Business Case for Breastfeeding, available at WomensHealth.gov
• Ask other working moms what worked for them regarding pumping and storing milk and set yourself up for success with these steps

All plans in the Healthcare Marketplace and most private plans cover support from a lactation consultant, a breast pump and basic breastfeeding supplies before or after your baby is born. There are some exceptions for plans that remained unchanged under the new healthcare law. For example, if you have an employer-provided health plan, check with your plan’s benefits administrator or call the number on the back of your insurance card to learn about your specific breastfeeding benefits.

Elizabeth T. Jordan, DNSC, RNC, FAAN, is an associate professor of Nursing at the University of South Florida, College of Nursing


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