Entity discusses the best way women can plan ahead for maternity leave without impacting their professional life.

Are you ready to have a baby? Well, whether you’re expecting or just curious about the motherhood path, you might want to think about what it means to take maternity leave.

For those women who want to get “back to business” after having a child, preparing for maternity leave is an important step. Although pregnancy can be very exciting, you’re left wondering how you will be affected. How will you provide for your new family? How will you talk to your company?

Legally speaking, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act passed in 1978 gives pregnant women the same rights as other people with “medical conditions” that require time off. This law is meant to prevent discrimination against pregnant women. Do you know anything else about it?

To help answer some of your questions, here are things to help you plan for your future maternity leave.

1 Know your rights.

For starters, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act applies to companies that have 15 or more employees. Under this law, employers are not allowed to fire you because you are pregnant, nor can they force you to take a mandatory maternity leave for a specific amount of time.

In addition, you are legally required to be granted the same health, disability and sickness-leave benefits as any other employee who has a medical condition. When on maternity leave, you can complete modified tasks, alternate assignments or even take leave without pay.

Most importantly, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act guarantees you job security at the end of your 12-week leave. You aren’t required to take your leave all at once. You can work part-time or even take it during different times of the year.

2 Are you looking for a new job? Did you just get your job?

Some women are more fortunate than others and will end up with more understanding companies. Other women don’t have the same opportunities to take all 12 weeks of leave. According to Real Simple, some employers aren’t required to give leave if you’ve worked at the company for less than a year or fewer than 1,250 hours that year.

So before you even work for a company, make sure you understand their leave rules. If you’re planning on starting a family and want to work for a company that doesn’t grant leave after a certain number of hours, then perhaps you should think about applying elsewhere or postponing your job search.

Overall, it’s important to understand your rights as a woman and to do your research on your company. American Pregnancy suggests talking to your human resources department to find the necessary details about the leave. Under federal law, you are required to request your leave in writing at least 30 days in advance. Because of this, you should speak to human resources well before that 30-day deadline.

3 Work ahead and discuss your return.

Communication is an important part maternity leave. According to Working Mother, you’re going to want to “start typing up loose ends and organizing as though you were leaving tomorrow” as early as seven months into the pregnancy. Have you taken care of everything? Is someone going to take over your assignments? Are you aware of any urgent deadlines?

The last thing you want to do is leave a chaotic mess behind that only you could understand. Once you have sorted out any loose ends, you should discuss your return to work. Talk to your manager and human resources department to figure out the details of your leave.

4 Save your money.

Taking a family leave means you won’t have a steady flow of money for several weeks. If this is a serious concern for you, then plan your finances early. First, think about how much time you will be taking off. According to the Parents website, if you’re going to be gone the full 12 weeks, “start figuring out how much money it will take you to live for those three months.”

Track your monthly expenses and then account for the fact that you have to also pay for a child. In order to successfully do this, the Parents website suggests creating a new savings account into which you can transfer money while you’re working. Margaret Magnarelli, assistant managing editor at Money magazine, tells Parents, “You won’t miss the money if you don’t have it at your disposal to spend.”

In addition to setting up a new savings account, Suze Orman, host of CNBC’s “The Suze Orman Show,” suggests teaching yourself to constantly use the “Wants vs. Needs” test. According to Orman, every time you need to buy something, ask yourself if it’s a “want” or a “need.” A “need” would be something such as medicine, food and gas. The Parents website says that if you spend your money on only needs, “you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll be able to save every month.”

As you can see, maternity leave takes a great deal of planning. There are a number of things to know about your rights as an expectant parent and about the amount of money you need to save. But, with the right preparation, it’s nothing that should be too overwhelming. Just take it one step at a time!

Edited by Ellena Kilgallon
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