Lately I have been bombarded with messages and e-mails from Mamas on Bedrest seeking for financial help. I hear you and I so wish that I could help. Unfortunately, Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond was never designed to provide financial assistance to families in need.
This is not a new issue. Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond has been a staunch advocate of paid family and maternity leave since its inception. We have traveled to the halls of congress with other family leave proponents to petition legislators to pass a paid family leave bill without success. To date, The National Partnership of Women and Families, MomsRising and others continue to press for paid leave, and while we have gotten close, there still remains no uniform, national paid family leave for new parents. Thus the United States has the dubious distinction of being the only industrialized nation on the planet not to offer paid family/maternity leave to its citizens. In terms of countries with medical leave benefits, we rank approximately 168th out of 172 nations that offer medical leave benefits. The only other countries without paid leave policies are Lesotho, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea. Thus the United States, one of the richest nations on the planet, the nation that spends more for health care than any other nation on the planet continues to have birth outcomes and overall health outcomes that rival those of developing nations without technological resources. It is a sad state indeed.
The Family Medical Leave Act is the best that we have and that has its restrictions. Passed in 1993, FMLA allows an employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a family member or for the employee to undergo treatment for illness and continue to have healthcare coverage during this time as an employee benefit. But there are some caveats. First, FMLA does not apply if you work for a small company with less that 50 employees. For companies larger than 50 employees or electing to enact FMLA, if an employee is out beyond the 12 weeks, the employers is not obligated to keep them as employees and many people have lost their jobs due to prolonged illness and absence. Additionally, while employers may be required to keep you on as an employee, they are not required to keep you in your same position or at your same salary. So after your leave, you may return to your place of employment but not to your same position.
Some individual companies have elected to offer their employees paid medical leave. This is a very individual decision and one that is not at all regulated. If your employer offers a paid leave benefit, you need to contact the human resources office to see what the rules and stipulations are regarding the paid leave. You will want to ask if there is a minimum amount of time you have had to be with the company in order to be eligible for the benefit as well as ask if you have to be a full time, salaried/exempt employee.
What else can Mamas on Bedrest do? How is a mama supposed to go on bedrest, rest, relax and calmly gestate her baby when she is filled with anxiety about her family’s finances? There are a few things that mamas can do that may help their financial situations. We offer these suggestions:
- Learn the laws and regulations governing paid leave for your state. Three states, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island, offer paid family and medical leave. All three states fund their programs through employee-paid payroll taxes and are administered through their respective disability programs. Other states and counties have various medical leave laws, so visit your state, county and local webpages to see what your area offers in the way of medical leave.
- Check with your state’s labor office. Some states have a disability program and take a portion out of your paycheck for this program. If this is the case, you may be eligible to apply for benefits. Often the benefit is a percentage of your pay, say 60%, but isn’t 60% of your salary better than nothing? These programs also have various rules and regulations so check with your state labor office for complete details and to learn how to apply if there is a program for which you are eligible.
- Speak with your employer. Some employers are willing to make allowances for your absence. In some cases, if you are able to work from home, they will set you up with equipment to continue working while on bedrest. In other situations you may be able to job-share; a co-worker covers for you now and you cover for them when you are able. Many employers are more amenable to being flexible than losing an employee and having to find and hire a replacement which actually represents a substantial cost to the employer.
- Consider Work from Home options. If you aren’t eligible for any sort of paid leave, your state/county doesn’t have a disability program and your employer/job won’t allow for you to work from home, you may want to consider work from home options. Some mamas have started businesses while on bedrest, working as virtual assistants, bookkeepers, medical transcriptionist and other jobs that have nominal equipment requirements and flexible hours. If you aren’t sure what types of work from home opportunities are available, I strongly suggest that you visit Theworkfromhomewoman.com. This website is run by my friend and colleague Holly Hannah and offers tips and advice for moms who want to find legitimate work from home opportunities.
I realize that adding to the stress of being placed on bedrest and worrying about how you are going to make ends meet you may not feel like looking for a job, but I have to say that many a mama has created a wonderful business out of her bedrest experience. (i.e. Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond, the Bedrest Concierge, The Sleep Whisperer just to name a few! Also, check out our podcasts! There are several mamas there who have taken their pregnancy/bedrest experiences and turned them into satisfying and profitable businesses!). While being placed on bedrest may not seem like an opportunity, it may in fact be the start of something wonderful for you! Check out your options. Look at the resources available to you. Ask those around you if there is something that you can do to pass the time that would help them. You may be surprised at what opportunities come your way!
If you have found a way to stay financially solvent while on bedrest, or if you have started a business while on bedrest, please share your story in our comments section below. You truly are an inspiration and other mamas will greatly benefit from your wisdom and savvy!!!
I am totally dismayed by the fact that the United States is the only industrialized nation and one of only 3 nations globally that don’t offer any sort of mandatory paid maternity/paternity leave. I believe that it is a HUGE detriment to our workforce, especially now since approximately 51% of the workforce is women. Because of US employment policies, many women are forced to choose between career and family, i.e “career track” and “mommy track”. Likewise, many men miss out on the joys of family and parenting as they work diligently to support their families if and/or when their wives become pregnant and are home caring for the children. Families should be allowed more flexibility and balance, and unfortunately this just isn’t the case.
As many Mamas on Bedrest know, unexpected complications during pregnancy can further throw off family financial balance. If a woman is the principle wage earner and has to be out of work for weeks to months due to bed rest, the impact to the family’s financial security can be devastating. The family will not only be impacted financially on the day to day level, but may also be at risk of losing precious health care benefits at a time when they are needed most. Today, Eric Adamowsky, co-founder of CreditCardInsider.com shares with us 10 Tips for Maternity Leave. They surveyed working mamas and asked them what they thought the most important tips are to note regarding maternity leave. This is what Mamas shared with them, and they graciously shared this information with us. Thanks so much Eric! Mamas, take note. There is some really good info here!!
While our biggest focus at Credit Card Insider is providing information about the responsible use of credit and credit cards, we’re always looking for ways to help people manage their finances in all areas of life, and especially at different major life stages. For this post, we asked for maternity leave advice from experienced moms in the workforce and discovered ten key themes.
1. Communicate with your employer
2. Be professional
3. Prepare – physically, emotionally, financially
4. Pre-plan a few meals
5. Cherish and maximize your time with baby
6. Give yourself a break
7. Accept help
8. Learn to be the baby’s mom
9. Include dad in the plan
10. Pace your transition back to work
If you notice overlap in the themes, such as a consistent message to take as much time off as you can, pay attention.
Communicate with your employer
No one will plan your maternity leave for you. It’s up to you to research any benefits and how to get them. Don’t be afraid to take full advantage of any maternity leave benefits available to you. If your maternity leave is unpaid, you could be eligible for paid family leave benefits from the state. Call your state’s unemployment/disability office for more information.
Prepare – physically, emotionally, and financially
Realize that everything is about to change – your body, your feelings, your schedule, your budget. Plan as well as you can. Be kind to your body. Producing a little human is no small job. Play with the idea that you might want to take an extended absence from work. Your career will always be there, but your child wants and needs your time and attention now. So think now – before the baby comes – about money. Don’t chant the “everything will work out” mantra. To get what you want, a solid financial plan will be a thousand times more effective than a wish and a prayer.
Pre-plan a few meals
You’ll hear from practically every new parent that once the baby is born, your day will revolve around meeting baby’s needs and not much else. You’ll be tired, possibly overwhelmed, and very short on time to handle previously mundane tasks like shopping and cooking. The most organized new parents think ahead to prepare meals (or at least key ingredients, like meat) that can later be heated, requiring no preparation whatsoever.
Cherish and maximize your time with baby
Studies show that most new moms don’t want to return to full time work after the birth of a baby. Even if you love your job or you don’t think you can live without the income, consider the possibility that you’ll fall into that category and plan for it as well as you can. Maximize your time off. Once you go back to work, find out if you can work from home or ease back part-time. While you’re off, enjoy the time with your new child.
Give yourself a break
Don’t expect to be a “natural” or to take it all in stride, no matter how much experience you have with other peoples’ children. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, and when it’s just mom, dad and baby, the answers don’t always present themselves clearly. In days gone by, extended families lived together and there were older generations around to teach new moms what to do. These days, you might not have that advantage. So cut yourself some slack for any doubts, lack of confidence or unrealistic expectations you may have.
When friends and family offer to help, let them. It may seem like a big imposition to ask your mother-in-law or surfing buddy to do your shopping, but if the offer is made, accept it gratefully. Running errands, cooking meals, cleaning the house, and walking a fussy baby are all great tasks to assign to caring people in your inner circle during the first few weeks of your little one’s life. Outside the home, get connected with a lactation support group nearby so that you’ll know where to go if any challenges arise.
Learn to be the baby’s mom
You might slip into your new role with ease… and you might not. Give yourself time to get used to the new routine. Relax and stay in the moment.
Include dad in the plan
You’re in this together. Encourage dad to be an active participant and to bond with baby. Like mom, dad should be unafraid to take the maximum amount of family leave available. Some men feel awkward around the baby, not knowing what to do or how they can help. Comfort will only come with practice. Also, men tend to feel much less free to take extended absences from work, and far more pressure to put the hours in. Each new dad has to set his own priorities, but more and more men are choosing to put family at the top of the list
Pace your transition back to work
Whether you must return to work or just want to, pace the transition. Spend the first two weeks in the daycare setting with your baby, to show that it is a safe, comfortable place that the baby can still associate with mom. If possible, go back to work part-time and ease into your full-time schedule over time.
And don’t underestimate the amount of time you’ll want to take off!
Thanks so much to Eric Adamowsky, Co-founder of CreditCardInsider.com for this post. Mamas, what has worked for you financially balancing bed rest/maternity leave and finances? Please share your tips in the comments section below.
I am an ardent supporter paid sick leave for US workers. The United States is one of only 4 countries world wide that offers no sort of paid leave for maternity, medical illness/treatment or to care for an ill family member. While most of us will agree that the United States offers unparalleled employment opportunities, it is shocking and disturbing that the US does nothing to support its workers when they or those they love fall ill.
I suppose with so many workers to choose from, there is no incentive to be loyal to employees. The US unemployment rate is still over 7% and there are many people willing to work for wages well below what they are worth and take jobs well below their skill set in order to simply secure a job and meet the needs of their families. It’s a very precarious work environment.
But I am still baffled as to why employers are so averse to supporting their employees. According to the Center for American Progress, when an employee who earns $50,000 per year leaves a company-regardless of whether they leave voluntarily or are asked to leave-the cost to replace that employee is approximately 20% of that person’s annual salary. In the US, approximately 75% of the workforce earns $50,000 or less annually. Likewise, if the employee earns $75,000 per year and leaves, the employer again has to spend approximately 20% of that employee’s salary or roughly $15,000 to replace that employee. Now considering that 9 out of 10 employees in the United States earns less than $75,000 annually, this can have substantial ramifications if a company has a high turnover rate. The Center for American Progress notes that the cost to replace a worker who makes less than $30,000 annually is slightly less, approximately 16%, yet lower waged service workers are often those with the highest turnover as they seek to increase their annual earnings. And not surprising, the cost to replace an executive or professional employee can be as high as 213% of the employee’s annual salary! Wouldn’t it simply make sense for employers to offer their employees better benefit packages that included health benefits, paid time off and flexible working schedules?
This is a situation that I closely watch for Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond. Many, many mamas have contacted me and my colleagues distraught because of mounting debt and job loss due to being placed on prescribed bed rest. As a result, I do what I can to advocate for paid family leave including presenting cases to Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) with my friend, colleague and the Executive Director of Better Bedrest Joanie Reisfeld, supporting the Paid Medical Leave Initiatives advocated for by the National Partnership for Women and Families, Working Mother Magazine and MomsRising and educating women and families about their leave options. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, To date:
The Portland City Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance that will let tens of thousands of workers in Portland earn the paid sick days they need. The bill is awaiting signature from Mayor Hales, making the bill law, and making Portland the fourth city to provide paid sick days.
The Philadelphia City Council, once again, approved a similar measure that would guarantee Philadelphians the same right. Hopefully Philadelphia Mayor Nutter, who vetoed the paid sick days bill in 2011, will take a second look and sign this common sense proposal.
Laws are already in place and working well in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Connecticut. And there are dozens of efforts to advance similar proposals across the country, including in New York City, Massachusetts and Vermont.
Given the economic benefits to companies and the benefits to working families, paid medical leave just makes sense. We Mamas on Bedrest know this, economists know this, advocates know this and yet the fight continues. Hopefully corporate CEO’s and lawmakers will evaluate the data and see that paid medical leave just makes sense. As the Center for American Progress noted,
“This brief documents that the cost of employee turnover for businesses is high, regardless of the level of wages being paid to the departing or incoming employees. Companies typically pay about one-fifth of an employee’s salary to replace that employee. While it costs businesses more to replace their very-highest-paid employees, the costs for most employers remains significant and does become less significant for those with low earnings.
Workplace policies that improve employee retention can help companies reduce their turnover costs. Family-friendly policies such as paid family leave and workplace flexibility help retain valuable employees who need help balancing work and family. For example, research has found that access to any form of parental leave makes women more likely to return to work after giving birth. Moreover, by 2050 up to 20 percent of Americans will be older than age 65, and improved leave policies would allow workers to provide the care their elderly parents may need without having to sacrifice their livelihoods.”