Women in the United States aren’t afforded the same financial security women in many other countries are when it comes to maternity leave. For those of us who live in states that have absolutely no paid maternity leave protection; it can be tough to contemplate up to 12 weeks maternity leave with absolutely no pay. That’s why a lot of women only take the minimum amount of time, even if that isn’t what we want. So how can we work with our employers to get the most bang for our buck? Here is a step by step guide to put together your maternity leave ‘request’ for women who are going back to work full time after baby!

Research: Figure out how much leave you are entitled to. Everyone is covered by FMLA which allows for 12 weeks unpaid, but your state government may have additional rules that your employer has to adhere to i.e. partial payment or temporary disability.

Plan: How much time do you need off once baby is here? Probably about 6 weeks; that covers you for vaginal birth and C-section. Also most daycare centers won’t take babies under 6 weeks. Then ask yourself how much time you want off and consider if you are able to go that length of time without pay and if your employer is likely to allow for it if it is outside the legal requirement.

Call HR: Call your human resource department and ask them what the company policy is or what other people have been offered for maternity leave. If they can’t tell you try talking to other women who have gone on maternity leave before you how they handled it or what they were offered. This will give you a good idea of what your agreement is likely to be.

Armed with research, write up an email to your supervisor or employer. Here’s a template to get you started:

Good afternoon,

I am due/being induced/have a scheduled C-Section in ___ weeks and I was thinking we should get a game plan in place.

I want to start by saying that I have every intention of returning to work full/part time and am/am not requesting any reduced hours when I return to work. My position with (Company) is very important to me; as is the success of the company as a whole.

Per an earlier conversation with the Human Resource department the company does/doesnt have a policy on maternity leave.(If your company has a maternity leave policy enter it here)  FMLA allows for 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave. That being said; due to (medical reasons/personal preference/daycare policies) I would like to request X weeks maternity leave for (recovery/preparation for daycare/dedicated breastfeeding/etc.)

Something that my family needs to prepare for is whether or not I will be receiving any pay for any of my maternity leave.

(IF YOU ARE WILLING TO WORK FROM HOME) Once I am settled at home and out of the hospital I am perfectly happy to answer my phone to any vendors, contractors or colleagues, respond to emails and do whatever work I can from home when available. I can do a vast majority of my job remotely with some facilitation from my team mates. This would also remove any need for having someone to temp in for me.

(IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO WORK FROM HOME) Please let me know as soon as possible if someone will be temping in for me. They may require training which I can provide before going on leave.

I am going to do everything in my power to leave things in such a way that my physical absence will not affect my colleagues or (Company) as a whole.

Please mull this over at your convenience and let me know as soon as possible so I can make sure that both my family and the office can be appropriately prepared for my upcoming leave of absence.

I appreciate your time and consideration,