How to Ask for Maternity Leave

Five Parts:Preparing to Ask for Time OffMaking the Request for Time OffManaging Your Time OffLearning Your RightsSample Letter to Employer

When you prepare for the birth of a new baby, there are many details to manage and organize. If you work outside of the home, planning your maternity leave is one of those details. You want to make sure you have enough time to recover from the birth and bond with your baby, but you do not want to leave your supervisors and co-workers hanging in your absence. Ask for maternity leave by understanding your rights and benefits, and giving your team plenty of notice before you go on leave.

Part 1
Preparing to Ask for Time Off

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    Talk to coworkers. The best way to get a feel for how your company handles maternity leave requests is by talking to other employees who have taken maternity leave. They may have tips on how to negotiate for a better package, and at the very least you'll know what kind of precedent other colleagues have set with their time off from work.[1]
    • Be polite and inquisitive. You may want to ask something like "I'm expecting a child soon. I was wondering if I could ask you what your experience was like with asking for maternity leave." Then gently bring up specifics, like "How much time off did they offer you? Do they offer any kind of salary while you're on leave?"
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    Arrange to meet with a supervisor. You may have to decide between meeting with your manager and meeting with someone in human resources, if your company has an HR department.
    • Begin the process by first speaking with your manager, as your direct supervisor will be the one most likely to recognize your strengths and value within the company.[2]
    • Consider talking to someone from human resources if you believe your supervisor will not be sympathetic to your needs. However, be aware that someone working in human resources may be less flexible on company-wide policies.[3]
    • If you are not on good terms with your manager, you may have better luck speaking with someone from HR.[4]
    • Never make demands. Aim for a polite and inquisitive attitude. You may want to try saying something like, "I recently found out I'm expecting a child. I'm very excited, but I want to know how this will affect my work life."
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    Consider negotiating your time off. Some companies have firm guidelines in place that meet the minimum state or national requirements for providing maternity leave. Other companies have more of a loose minimum in place, with the option to negotiate for more time off or a better salary during maternity leave.[5] Your options may depend on how family-friendly your company is, and there may even be some variance within the company from one department to another.[6]
    • Broach the subject as a question or a problem you're hoping to work together on. Never act demandingly or threateningly.[7]
    • Discuss your request in terms of an experiment for the company, rather than an exception to the rules.[8]
    • Use your best judgment. If other workers are being laid off and your company is downsizing, or if you and your boss do not get along well, it may be unwise to try and negotiate the terms of your maternity leave. In these cases, it's best to take whatever is offered, provided that offer meets the state or federal mandates that govern maternity leave.[9]

Part 2
Making the Request for Time Off

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    Give your employer advanced notice. The requirements for how much notice you must give before your anticipated leave will vary from state to state and country to country. In some places, there may not be an explicit requirement. Other regions may have specific requirements. Talk to someone from your company's HR department, or check online for your region's department of labor (or a similar agency) to learn what's required of you.
    • In the UK, employees must deliver the request for maternity leave at least 21 days before the start date of the employee's leave.[10]
    • In the United States, employees must give at least 30 days' notice prior to the anticipated leave date.[11]
    • Find your country's required notice policy by searching online. You can also contact the department of labor or a similar agency.
    • Try to give as much notice as possible. Your employer will appreciate the extra time, as it will make it much easier to delegate your work and/or find a temporary replacement.[12]
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    Compose a written request. If you're expecting a child and need to request time off for maternity leave, it's best to submit your request in writing. In fact, some employers may require that such requests be delivered in writing.[13] This will vary from one country to another, and even from one state to another, but it's best to have a written, dated request for time off. This can help prevent any disputes from arising over when the request was made or how much time was requested.[14] You can find some excellent sample letters at
    • Use one inch margins on all sides.[15]
    • Choose a professional font, like Times New Roman or Arial. Use size 12 font throughout the letter.[16]
    • Address the letter to your immediate supervisor or HR representative, and include the full date on which the letter was written and delivered.[17]
    • Use professional language. Address your supervisor as Mr. or Mrs., followed by their last name. If you do not know the name of the supervisor or HR representative who will be reviewing your request, you may address the letter "To Whom It May Concern".
    • Use a colon after the salutation and a comma after the closing.[18]
    • Skip a line after addressing the letter.[19]
    • Use either block form or indented form. These are the two most common formats for business letters. Block form keeps all the text aligned along the left margin (including the closing and signature lines). Indented form indents the first line of each paragraph one-half inch from the left margin, and lines up the address, closing, and signature lines to the right of center.[20]
    • Be clear and concise. Make sure your letter says in no un-certain terms, "I wish to request parental leave," or something similarly phrased.[21]
    • Specify the requested time period. Give your employer an estimated start/end date, and mention how many weeks this adds up to.[22]
    • Offer a certificate from your doctor or midwife that will verify that you are pregnant and specify the anticipated due date.[23]
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    Submit your request. Once again, whom you submit the request to may depend on the structure of your company and your relationship with the management at your company. Submit the request, and keep a copy for your own records.

Part 3
Managing Your Time Off

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    Offer to delegate tasks. One way to show your employer that you are committed to the company is by offering to delegate work while you're gone. Your employer may prefer to handle such delegation, but it's possible your boss might appreciate having your input on who would work best on certain tasks.[24]
    • Understand that not all tasks can be delegated to others, and assign work accordingly.[25]
    • Choose the most skilled and capable workers to take on your work. Remember that their work on these projects may reflect poorly on you if the work is not done correctly, so be sure that you trust anyone you delegate work to.[26]
    • Provide clear instructions on what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by. Offer instructions if the person you're assigning work to doesn't normally work in your department.[27]
    • Give credit to anyone who picks up your projects while you're gone. While their work reflects on you, it's important that you acknowledge that work. Give appropriate thanks and credit where it is due.[28]
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    Stay in contact. You will almost certainly be out of contact for the first couple of weeks after you give birth, but once you're back home and a bit more rested, it's important to make yourself available. Even though you're on leave and you won't actually be able to do much (if any) work from home, making yourself available for questions and contacting others for updates on how various projects are going can go a long way in proving your dedication and commitment to the company.[29]
    • Try to check in once every week or two. You can contact your supervisor, or reach out to anyone you've delegated tasks to. This will help ensure that any projects you've left at the office are getting completed and meeting your expectations.[30]
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    Make child care arrangements. Finding a new nanny or daycare facility can take many weeks of research and interviews. It's important that you research your options ahead of time and make arrangements while you're on maternity leave. You do not want to put these decisions off to the last minute, or you might end up stuck with a daycare situation you don't like (or no daycare situation at all).[31]
    • Search online. Your state may have a list or database of regulated, approved child care providers.[32] Depending on where you live, you may even have access county-wide referral services, such as New York State's Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (CCRRs). These agencies help you find a care provider based on your needs and the time frame you're working with.[33]
    • Talk to other mothers. Ask questions, and look for good recommendations.
    • Consider whether you will need full-time or part-time care once you return to work.[34]
    • Consider the location of the daycare facility, how many children will be in the daycare facility at any given time, and how much these services will cost.[35]

Part 4
Learning Your Rights

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    Know how much time you're allowed. The terms of maternity leave vary tremendously from one country to another, and even from one state or province to another. In the UK, for example, employees are permitted up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. This is divided into 26 weeks of "ordinary leave" and 26 weeks of "additional leave".[36] In the United States, employees who meet the eligibility requirements set forth by the Family and Medical Leave Act can take up to 12 weeks of leave in a given year.[37]
    • There may be federal or local guidelines in place that determine an employee's eligibility for maternity leave. In the United States, for example, employees wishing to take maternity leave must work for a company that has at least 50 employees available within a 75 mile radius to cover the work that someone on maternity leave would miss. Employees must also have been employed at the company for at least 12 consecutive months and must have accrued at least 1,250 hours of work time during the 12 months leading up to the leave period.[38]
    • Small businesses may not be required to provide maternity leave - for example, in the United States, most small businesses would not fall under the guidelines of the Family and Medical Leave Act. However, many small businesses choose to accommodate maternity leaves, and the Small Business Administration recommends that businesses try to offer some kind of maternity leave for valuable employees.[39]
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    Learn if you're eligible for paid leave. There will be a great deal of variance on whether an employer must provide paid maternity leave to an employee. Some countries have federal laws that require employers to pay employees during maternity leave. Other countries do not have federal laws requiring paid leave, but may have state or provincial laws in place. Certain union members may also be eligible for paid leave. If you're unsure about whether you're entitled to paid leave, contact your national or regional department of labor or a similar agency.
    • In the UK, employees may be eligible for paid leave for up to 39 weeks of maternity leave.[40]
    • In the US, an employer is not required by the Family and Medical Leave Act to pay an employee while she is on maternity leave. However, three states within the US - California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island - offer paid family and medical leave.[41]
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    Understand your rights. In many countries, employers may not fire an employee or refuse to hire a prospective employee due to a current or future pregnancy. However, once again there is a great deal of variance in how and where these laws apply. In the United States, for example, it is unlawful for an employer to ask a prospective employee if she is pregnant or planning on conceiving. But if the employer is a religious organization or an organization that works with young people, that employer may be allowed to terminate employees for violating the organization's guidelines or ethics codes on premarital sex.[42]
    • Employees who believe they were wrongfully terminated or discriminated against due to a pregnancy may be eligible to file a complaint with the Department of Labor. In the United States, employees wishing to file a complaint should call 1-866-487-9243 or visit the department's website at
    • Employees outside the United States should contact their national or regional department of labor, or a related agency.

Sample Letter to Employer


  • Talk to your boss, co-workers and clients about how much contact you want while you are on leave. Some women like to be completely free of work responsibilities while on maternity leave, whereas others like to get an update on what is happening every few days.

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Categories: Work World | Pregnancy