Advice on negotiating a part time return to work – when and how?


So I’m expecting my first baby in mid January, and I will be taking the full FMLA allowed 12 weeks of maternity leave. And one of my biggest worries with having a baby is how we will deal with happens after that.

I’m not sure if I’ll really want to go back to full time work right away when the leave is up. My therapist, psychiatrist, and some friends have suggested that if possible, part-time work would be great, and I think they may be right.

They’ve advised me to wait until it’s time to talk about coming back from leave to have that discussion, which made sense when I talked with them.

However, I am in a really good negotiating position right now. So I’m contemplating having this discussion early, which frankly would be a huge relief.

That’s where I’m looking for advice. Should I bring it up now? Could that affect my pay during leave? What should I do to prepare and what should I expect?

I’m eager to hear any advice people can share! So jump on over to the comments and tell me what you think!

For more details on why I think now might be the right time, read on below:

I am lucky to have a good job where I contribute a lot to a critical part of the company and am hard to replace. I like what I do and my department, but there are some stresses related to it – some craziness in a department we work closely with and some frustration with getting to my desired next career steps within this department, despite the high recognition I’ve received.

I saw a good opportunity in a newly created department at my company.  It would be doing similar work, but without regular interactions with the crazy department, and I thought I could avoid some of these stresses and have good next step options there.

So this summer I spoke to the manager of the new department to see if there might be an opportunity for me there. She was excited at the prospect of having me on her team and while they weren’t looking to hire for the position I wanted there just yet, spoke to her boss (the COO) who said they always wanted to support mobility for high performers and that they could open the position for me. My current boss was quite disappointed as he had plans for me to grow on his team, but promised not to get in the way if that’s what I wanted.

We talked about timeline and decided I would finish my current role before my maternity leave and start the new one when I return. The move seemed like a good plan, and the new role seemed a better fit in terms of teams and meetings (for the flex schedule I hope to negotiate after I come back from leave), with some better medium term prospects for advancement and managing others.

But last week, in talking with my current manager about hiring my replacement, he expressed again that he does not want to lose me and finally offered the next step I’ve wanted most: to manage and mentor a junior person in my role. So I asked if I could have some time to think about it.

And the truth is, if I didn’t have my new baby on the mind, with the junior person to manage I’d stay for sure. Some of the stresses of the related department are lessening, and I wouldn’t even have to wait for medium term to get that next step I want. And even with baby, it sounds pretty appealing.

But what would seal the deal for me is if I could negotiate a part-time return (for how long I don’t know).

It seems like a good time to work that out now. In general the role still seems less conducive to part time or flex than the new position would, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. And if instead of replacing me he’s hiring a junior person in addition to me, he might appreciate the part-time pay aspect of the deal. I could envision a plan where I am in the office some days or portions of days for those important meetings, and on others work from home – to keep my junior associate moving along by answering questions and responding to requests without being responsible for some of the creation and writing work I do now.

So I’d like to bring this up as a possibility. I think my boss’s eagerness to keep me on the team might make him more interested in working with me to make such a plan work.

But what are the risks? Right now I’d be eligible for full pay throughout the whole 12 weeks of leave. Would they still give me that if I only planned to come back part time? Or would they want to start the part time pay at the start of leave? Can they?

Is there anything else I should keep in mind?

(Ps I live in NY state, which as far as I can tell has laws around disability pay during maternity leave but like so many other states, no additions to the federal law in terms of job security and time off.)

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4 thoughts on “Advice on negotiating a part time return to work – when and how?

  1. goodness, i have no idea. i haven’t had to negotiate this yet, and won’t have to negotiate it for this pregnancy at all because i currently don’t get paid to work my ass off and can, therefore, take as much time as i’d like with no financial consequences. i have no idea what the company is legally required to give you, but i guess my question would be this. if you are planning on returning only part-time, are you willing to take decreased pay during your 12 weeks if that means you can do what you want afterward? it sounds like your boss is willing to do what he can to keep you around, so maybe he’ll be on board, but you should probably prepare for what your answer would be if they said, ‘yeah, sure. part-time is great, but we’re not going to pay you for full-time during your maternity leave then.’ i might even bring it up to both potential bosses to see which would give you the better deal. i agree that it really does seem like a good time to negotiate this!

    • Yeah I’m kind of thinking with the two options to pick from even if they say ok but we’ll only pay you part time during leave I might still prefer that too getting stuck into something where I either can’t work out or or damage my relationship with my employer. But I was really looking forward to the full pay during leave… My company even pays the difference between disability and salary!

  2. I would think that if you work full time up until your leave, they would have to pay you the full-time rate while you are on leave. Likely the leave comes from a different pot of money, so your boss would have no incentive to save money by paying you part time.

    My suggestion would be to say that you are CONSIDERING returning to work part time at first, with a timeline for ramping it back up to full time, and get their feedback on that. I think anyone who has ever had a kid or been close to someone with a kid will understand and be supportive of a plan like that. If your current boss is not, then you go with the new department.

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