Your business has been seeing some impressive growth, and finally running like a well-oiled machine. Then one of your best performers tells you that she’s pregnant, and would like to take advantage of her maternity leave. It doesn’t matter how enthusiastic you are about women’s rights; if you take a valuable player out of your lineup, it’s cause for worry.
You need to make preparations before the day arrives and the employee goes home for her pregnancy. Here are tips that can help keep your team working.
1. First, read over your company’s policies on the subject:
You may have drafted and adopted those maternity leave policies a while ago, but you no longer remember them. Look through those paragraphs to find out how much time employees are allowed. At a time like this, it’s usually a good idea to discuss your policy with an expert. If you don’t have an HR team, consider hiring an HR consultant who can help you understand both the business and legal aspects of your plan.
2. Call the worker in for a meeting:
Call the mom-to-be in for a one-on-one meeting, both to congratulate her, and to update her on everything you’ve learned about the company policy. In many areas, it’s the law that states what your plans should be. For instance, the US Department of Labor rules that eligible employees get paid when taking time off for medical reasons.
In other areas, your policies may come down to your company’s own choice in the matter. For instance, when a worker has an appointment with her obstetrician, how much time does she get to take off on the day? Does it count as her lunch break? Does she need to make up those hours? Does she need to take a sick day off? Your conversation with the HR consultant should have cleared up all these points, and you should be able to update your worker with everything you’ve learned. It’s important to be flexible wherever possible.
3. Ask the employee to document all her projects:
Once you’ve spoken to the employee about company rules and policies, it’s time to get ready for a short-term transition for the time that she will be away. Asking her to document her responsibilities, activities, and projects should help you determine how to reassign everything to other workers.
4. Find backup:
Once you know what responsibilities your leaving employee will free up, it’s time to find someone else to pull up the slack. You’ll need to discuss with your team which jobs you can put on hold and which tasks are too significant to put off. Then, you will need to determine who is willing to take on the remaining jobs. In some cases, you may need to outsource the task temporarily either to a freelancer or to a temp. If you choose to do so, the employee going on leave is often the best person to interview the replacement.
5. Draw up a plan for the transition:
Once you have planned what responsibilities will continue getting attention, it’s time to create a plan for how to hand over the tasks to the new people who take them up. It’s important to take into account the possibility that the employee who is pregnant will need to leave sooner than planned. Emergencies are not unheard of, after all. You also need to talk about a transition from maternity leave back into work. Easing back into work is usually a combination of coming to the office and working from home.
Once your plan begins to go into effect, look in from time to time to make sure that everything goes smoothly. It’s important to understand that the arrival of a baby is a happy occasion. Ideally, this isn’t the time to bury your nose in the rulebook. Do your maternity leave policy right, and your employee will usually be grateful. This time also is an excellent opportunity to win some employee loyalty.
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