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I work as IT contractor in US located small startup. I’ve been working there for 3 years. I live in another country and work remotely. I'm wondering how women usually notify the company about their pregnancy in US. My contract doesn’t cover this topic, the contract only says that in case I want to change the job, I need notify the company in a month.

I’m worried about all this situation because I’m an only woman in a team and I do not know what their reaction will be.

I understand that I should tell them about the pregnancy in advance because I will be unavailable for some time, but from the other point of view I’m planning to return to work in a 1-2 month and I would like to come back to the same position/salary (without downgrading).

I also do not know how to start a negotiation about this: should I start it from my suggestions (about 1-2 month leave) or should I ask something like “what can you offer me in this situation?” and wait for their response?

Will it be OK to tell them about it in 1 month till the expected date of birth or should I do it earlier?

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    Hi, I would recommend adding the state in which the company is headquartered, as maternity leave regulations may vary from state to state. – McITGuy Apr 16 '20 at 20:41
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    It is not completely clear what you mean by “contractor”. Are you a freelancer, sent out as a consultant (so you still have an employer), ...? If this company is a client of yours, regulations on maternity leave mean nothing, those generally only apply to employees. What would you do if you were gonna be unavailable for a month or 2 due to for example working on another project? – AsheraH Apr 16 '20 at 20:43
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    I’m planning to return to work in a 1-2 month - is this normal in the US? This might be my pampered European me, but I'm a bit shocked... Where I'm from it would actually be illegal. – fgysin Apr 20 '20 at 11:55
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    @fgysinreinstateMonica in US 6 weeks of maternity leave is considered standard. Some places give the option of extending it without pay, but that's less widespread. – Binyomin Apr 26 '20 at 22:58
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    @fgysinreinstateMonica, Actually, if you're simply a contractor. You might get zero days in the US. I'm not kidding. But with that said, the term "contractor" has multiple meanings in the United States, so not all hope is lost. – Stephan Branczyk Apr 27 '20 at 1:56
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You know, I think I'm going to give an off-beat answer to this: how well regarded are you by the company? Do they like your performance and work output?

The reason I ask this is, I'm considering it from the company's perspective.

I have a coworker who's awesome, and pumps out some good work. If they told me, "Kevin, I'll be gone in July and August - I'll be coming back on September 1st" - I'd make plans so that work would continue while they were gone, but I wouldn't even entertain the idea of finding temporary/permanent replacements for that lost output. Why? The coworker's awesome - and they'll be back in action in just a few months.

If that coworker was a contractor that I thought was a general waste of space? Then, yeah, I'd probably be looking for someone to at least temporarily fill their role... and if they did the job better, have it be a more permanent replacement. At that point, it'd simply be: what's the minimum legal requirements of contractor protection for the situation. (Which isn't where you want to be.)

If you're liked by the company, and they like your work? Then I'd actually recommend giving them a large advance notice. Because that reduces the scale of impact from you being gone - they can make plans around you not being there temporarily. It doesn't sound like you're trying to get paid maternity leave, so literally the only cost to the company is opportunity costs from you not being there for a few months. Giving them advanced notice reduces those costs, since they'll be able to plan better around it.

(That's why I led with the question I did. That advice is horrible if the company doesn't think much of you. Giving them a large advanced notice will simply give them a long time to scout out a temporary replacement.)

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    Like this. Also, if they really like you they could even pay you some « retainer » to motivate you to return. – Solar Mike Apr 17 '20 at 6:26
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    +1 for thinking about contract work. Of course, this is completely different from being a permanent employee. – Jessica Apr 17 '20 at 10:29
  • Giving them lots of notice also shows them that you're taking their needs as well into account,and are giving them the best chance to find a temp. This is important if you're trying to maintain a positive relationship with them. – Binyomin Apr 26 '20 at 23:01
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First thing to clarify is which maternity leave applies - that of your country or that of wherever in US your company is located. E.g. in Germany it's even forbidden to work in the weeks around giving birth (some weeks before and some weeks after), no matter where the company you're working for is located.

Next thing is clarifying if there are laws when you will have to notify your employer - I guess (!) for this thing the laws of the company location will apply. Maybe you should ask a local lawyer for help. Most times, they're worth the money for a little consulting.

And last one is to clarify notice periods during pregnancy - e.g. in Germany you are under dismissal protection while pregnant. Though, US is completely (and insanely) different, of course. And again, you should clarify which laws apply.

Tell them earliest 3 months into pregnancy as risk to lose the child in early pregnancy stages are quite high. (knocking on wood three times, of course) I would not tell them only a month before giving birth, though. What if you have to leave your workplace earlier due to health reasons in your late pregnancy (which don't have to be bad, but might keep you from working), and they didn't even know about your pregnancy? This could shed a bad light on you.

And to finally answer your question how to start the negotiation: In my experience it's always better to suggest a solution for any issue to your boss instead of hoping for them to come up with a solution. If you already have a plan on your "comeback", tell them and ask if it's possible. If it's not, it's their turn to suggest an own solution, or you can negotiate yours. Never give them a start to come up with their solutions - especially with maternity leave it's up to you how you want to handle this and there are so many many possibilities.

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I think this is much more a question of logistics than ethics.

First, figure out what you'll need to happen if they don't offer you any maternity leave. Do you have any PTO, short-term disability, or unpaid leave available? (Also have a plan for if you can't work right up until you give birth or if you can't return as soon as you want to.)

Then, figure out what your company can do for you. Ideally, you'll have some way of finding that out (employee handbook, company intranet, etc.) without having to tell anyone you're pregnant. Figure out what applies to you. You may be eligible for maternity leave even if they aren't legally required to offer it to you (or they may offer more than state law requires).

If you can find what you need, great! If you can't find that information (or it's incomplete or vague) then, as Tymoteusz Paul suggested in the comments, you'll need to talk to a professional to find out what you're legally entitled to.

I looked for existing advice on negotiating maternity leave and everyone seems to suggest having a plan and suggesting that up front. I think that makes sense if your company doesn't have a policy at all. They aren't likely to come up with a good offer on the spot.

I wouldn't wait any longer than 3 months out from the due date to talk to your employer. You don't want them to still be trying to figure out how to straighten out manage your leave in their system a week after you've given birth. You want there to be time for all of that to be figured out, especially if you do have to negotiate this. Even if there is a straight forward policy in place, some of the paperwork might be confusing or time-consuming.

Congratulations and good luck!

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I need notify the company in a month.

Ethically, this is all you need to do.

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    That's for if she wants to change jobs, which she doesn't. So how is this relevant? And how does she prevent losing her job? – Kat Apr 17 '20 at 3:57
  • @kat it's the only guideline that exists, so ethically it's sufficient. The rest are unknown factors, so I'm not going to make an answer from thin air and try and look wise. – Kilisi Apr 17 '20 at 9:14
  • I can understand that mindset... though you may want to change the word 'ethically'. Just because something is the minimal legal action needed doesn't automatically make it the ethical course of action. That'd be like saying it's ethical to insult your wife everyday because you're meeting the legal requirement to not sleep with anyone else. – Kevin Apr 17 '20 at 13:34
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    @kevin, I don't get the example, but OP asked what is ethical I answered, legalities min or max don't come in to it at all. OP isn't legally obligated to say anything at all. Ethically you give some notice, a month is plenty. No reason to give more. – Kilisi Apr 17 '20 at 14:54

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