How to Talk to Your Employer About Returning to Work

How to Talk to Your Employer About Returning to Work - Returning to work plan - Speak up

 

Estimated read time: 12 minutes

Are you returning to work from maternity leave? This is for you.

If you’ve been on maternity leave with your precious new baby, and the time has come to start thinking about returning to work, you might be feeling a lot of mixed emotions. Returning to work after baby can stir up lots of feelings and that is why we made this returning to work guide for new moms.

On the one hand, you’re kinda pumped about returning to your job and being around adults again (oh, and enjoying a hot cup of coffee for once!). On the other hand, you’re nervous about leaving your little one and anxious about how this whole “working mom” thing actually works. 

And that might include talking to your employer about returning to work. How will they treat you? What happens if you’re breastfeeding and you need to pump at work? Can you combine both? How do you work childcare around your working hours? What will be expected of you? What will happen if you want to discuss the possibility of working fewer days/hours?

Mama, we get it. This is a whole new ball game. So, if you’re feeling unsure about how to talk to your employer about returning to work, we’ve got you. We are here to help you have a smooth transition back to work.

In this article:

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Mother Pumper Funny Baby Shower Card

Your postpartum workplace rights

Did you know that there are postpartum employee rights? The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), enacted in 1993, entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave. This includes 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period for giving birth and caring for your baby within one year of their birth.  

However, the US has no federal paid leave policy. In fact, we’re the only industrialized nation without one! And while the FMLA provides only eligible employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave, nearly 44% of workers in the United States do not qualify. 

What does this mean for you? You need to research and know your maternity leave rights before giving birth and have a conversation with your employer, as it’ll be up to them whether or not they can support you through private parental leave policies. Research the laws laid out by your local government and your employer so you can plan your leave accordingly.

For example, some local laws offer additional workplace rights for new moms, and while there is no federal protection against workplace discrimination against parents and caregivers, there are some jurisdictions that have specific laws prohibiting unfair treatment and discrimination of employees based on their parental or caregiving responsibilities. 

On July 27, 2023, The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) went into effect in the US which helps protect pregnant and postpartum workers. It requires most employers to provide reasonable accommodations for limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. This includes protection during the postpartum period. There is a lot of information to take in, especially when it comes to your rights. We break it down in this helpful article on what you need to know about PWFA.

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Returning to work postpartum

Just when you feel like you’ve got the hang of life with a newborn, it’s already time to go back to work. 

Where did the time go, right?

Let’s be real mama. You are allowed to feel overwhelmed by this new stage in your life. It’ll mean a change of routine, a change in pace, and a change in your priorities. And that’s OK. Your body has already gone through so much, and it’s totally normal for your emotions to be all over the place. 

Whether you’re feeling apprehensive or guilty about leaving your baby to go back to work, or you’re excited to dive back into your professional life (or a little bit of both), whatever you feel is valid and needs to be acknowledged.

Transitioning back to work after maternity leave is hard. Not only have you been out of the flow of office life for weeks, or even months, but you’ll be returning as a parent. This means you have new concerns and priorities. Managing postpartum return to work is a transition like no other, but speaking with your employer in advance might help make things run a little smoother. Coming up with a step-by-step return to work plan can be highly beneficial.

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Childcare

First up, you need to arrange childcare for your baby. There are some childcare options for working moms that you will need to research. The childcare you choose will be specific to your needs and situation. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have family close by who can help take care of your little one while you work, maybe you choose to employ a nanny to look after your baby at home, or maybe you’ve found the perfect daycare. It’s a good idea to get your childcare sorted while you’re pregnant, so it’s one less thing to think about when the time comes to go back to work. Finding childcare for returning to work may take time, so don't delay.

Some pregnant people in the US start looking for childcare soon after they learn of their pregnancy because there can be lengthy wait lists due to the childcare shortage that has not recovered since the beginning of the pandemic.

You’ll also want to consider the hours you’ll be working, as well as the timings for dropping off and picking up your baby (if applicable). Balancing work and childcare can be a challenge, and we want to help spotlight some things to consider.

If you breastfeed, factor in the time for nursing in the morning before drop-off and any time you might need for pumping. Trial runs are crucial to ensure both you and your baby and your childcare provider feel comfortable. You should also think about having a backup childcare plan in place in case your baby gets sick, you’re childcare provider has an emergency, or the daycare unexpectedly closes. 

If your partner is on-hand, see if you can work out a schedule so you share the load. A timetable, while it might feel over the top, can help make things feel less overwhelming and more organized.

Go through all your options, speak to family, go and visit daycares, work out your finances, and make a plan before giving birth. Your postpartum self will thank you for it. 

Dark Gray Breastfeeding Breast Coast Crop Top

Speaking with your employer

You might want to have this conversation while you’re still pregnant, or you might feel more comfortable having it before returning to work but speaking with your employer about their expectations is a must.  Communicating your return-to-work plan can feel overwhelming. There are so many unknowns, especially if this is your first child. So deep breath, we will do this together. Discussing your postpartum work schedule and having open communication with your employer is key.

The question of whether you return gradually or resume work full-time is something you both need to agree on. Of course, not everyone has an option, but if you do, it’s a good idea to think about the pros and cons of both. 

Speak to your employer about your options. Can you switch to more flexible hours? Could you work from home? Is part-time or job-sharing an option? If you can, plan out the options on paper, including how they could work and the benefits for both you and your employer so they can take your suggestions seriously and see that you’re committed to making this work.

Easy to use Breastmilk storage bags for working moms

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act does help offer workplace protections, however, it is important that all agreements made between you and your employer are well documented with a paper trail. 

It’s totally normal to feel nervous about your employer’s reaction, so practice the conversation a few times before having it. Role-play with your partner or even do it yourself using a mirror. Make all your points clear and ensure you have answers to any questions you think they might ask and go through everything a few times so it’s clear in your head. 

This will also help if your employer retaliates when you have the conversation. It’s best to be prepared for this situation just in case, which is why it’s crucial to do your homework on your local laws and the rights laid out in your contract and employee handbook. Knowing these and building your case around them should give you the tools you need to state your case. 

Remember, every job and every employer is different. Having conversations early on can help avoid creating conflicts between your work and parental responsibilities and help you maintain a healthy work-life balance. And by being open, honest, and showing that you’re thinking about how you can continue to do your job well is vital.  

Back to work Breastfeeding Mom Gift Basket

Breastfeeding rights at work

You’ve established breastfeeding with your little one and you’re so proud of yourself. And we’re so proud of you mama. But we understand how difficult it can be to juggle working and breastfeeding. 

The good news is, just because you’re returning to work, it doesn’t mean your breastfeeding journey has to end.  Getting into a good and sustainable pumping routine means you can get on with your work, breastfeed your little one when you’re with them, and pump to make sure they have enough of your liquid gold throughout the day and your supply won’t be affected. You can read our guide about pumping and returning to work here

Queen of Pumping - Back to work gift for mom

So, what about pumping at work? 

Let's talk about breastfeeding accommodations at your workplace. Good news! Last April (2023) the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP) went into full effect. Finally, a law that requires employer support for breastfeeding moms is here to help in navigating breastfeeding at work.

This act requires employers to provide reasonable break time for mamas to express milk, and a place to pump at work (other than a restroom…ew), that is not only shielded from view but is free from intrusion from other employees and the public. 

Not only must these accommodations be available whenever you need it, but they must also be provided for one year after giving birth to help with new mom workplace integration to help you keep your breastfeeding goals.

This is a massive win for breastfeeding moms and further pushes the importance of breastfeeding. With the introduction of this act, it helps makes things a little easier for postpartum mamas to return to work and continue the breastfeeding journey they’ve worked so hard to establish. 

You're the Tits water bottle and encouraging breastfeeding stickers for breast pump stickers

You can do hard things

Returning to the workforce after baby can be scary. You are not alone. Going back to work postpartum is hard mama. It’s an intense physical and emotional adjustment, and it’s normal to feel apprehensive and anxious about your return. 

While there is no perfect path, understanding your rights, being kind to yourself, speaking to your employer, and being organized can help make your reentry into your professional life a little easier.

You’ve got this mama, and we are so proud of you. 

 

At Titty City Design, we believe that every boobie is beautiful, and that should be celebrated. We are a female-owned and operated, small business here to spread self-love and body positivity with our line of boob apparel, boob accessories, and boob-themed decor and products for the home. A portion of our proceeds goes to help support postpartum people and breast cancer patients.

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