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While parental rights have come a long way since our mothers were young, women still run into issues trying to blend their jobs with parenthood.
If you work outside the home, hopefully your employer understands your parental rights – the importance of flexible working hours, your work at home options and maternity leave commitments. Also, hopefully, you are getting paid a fair and equal wage for your work. Some companies are excellent at recognizing the needs of mothers, while others sadly are not.
What are your parental rights at work, and how can you ensure they are acknowledged?
Maternity Leave (or Parental Leave)
Some of the more enlightened employers give paid maternity leave to mothers for up to six weeks in the US. Others allow six weeks, but it is unpaid. Often women have to use a combination of their maternity leave, paid or unpaid, their sick days, their vacation days and Short-term Disability to cover the time they take off.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles most workers to up to 12 weeks of leave for a birth or an adoption. Your job will be protected for this amount of time, but it will most likely be unpaid.
Some smaller companies are not required to follow the FMLA guidelines. It’s very important to look into what you will be offered in the way of maternity leave early on in your pregnancy so that you can plan for the future.
Flexible Working Hours
More and more, companies are aware of parental rights, offering flexible hours to their employees, not only as a concession to parents, but as a convenience for all. Some jobs, by nature, have flexible working hours, and if you are a parent, this is to your advantage.
If your job doesn’t offer flexible hours, speak with your supervisor to see if this is possible. You may be able to switch to a different shift, or work more hours each day, but fewer days in the week. You may even be able to work on weekends for a time, when your spouse is home to take care of the children.
Working from Home
With all the advances in communication, working from home is far easier than it used to be. it enables you to be available for your child, and still complete your work.
Many companies allow workers to come in to the office once or twice a week for a few hours for meetings etc, while also working from home by using email, Face Time and Skype. Talk to your employer about the possibility of working from home. If you can make working from home work an attractive, problem-free alternative, he or she just might agree.
Are You Getting Equal Pay?
Receiving equal pay has long been a problem for women in the workplace. To this day, high-level executives have trouble breaking through the “glass ceiling” and earning the same wage as their male counterparts for doing the same job.
While your employer is hopefully providing you with the wages and periodic raises you are due, it is important to ask for promotions and pay rises.
The key to getting your parental rights recognized on the job is to do your homework. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you think you are worth. If you present a well thought out argument, they will likely give your request the consideration it deserves.
In the case of Maternity Leave, find out exactly what you will be allowed and plan ahead. If you think your company is violating the law in some way, consult an attorney who specializes in employment law. Most of all, don’t assume – ASK!