Questions to Ask HR About Maternity Leave


Treat your initial meeting with Human Resources with them as a fact-finding mission. Take notes throughout the conversation, and send an email afterward confirming your understanding of the policy. This is especially important since few companies have a comprehensive policy in writing. (Scroll down for a printable list!)

I generated this list after interviewing more than 75 women for my book Here’s the Plan: Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenthood. If you’re interested in learning what these women also had to say about how to ensure your job gets covered in your absence, how to avoid benevolent discrimination (27% of women experience some form of pregnancy discrimination!), and how to effectively and efficiently prepare for your return to office, it’s available on Amazon just $10.

How You Get Paid During Maternity Leave

  • What is the maximum amount of time away, including extended unpaid time, that the company allows?

    • Do I have flexibility in how I use that time? (Can I use some toward working part-time weeks when you return?)

    • Can I reserve some of my leave for later?

  • How much of my salary will I receive while I am out on leave?

  • Does my equity continue to vest while I’m on parental leave? (This is especially important if your equity represents a large portion of your compensation.)

  • If you are in a state that affords parental leave: Does that leave occur concurrently with any employer-sponsored leave, or is it sequential?

  • If you have incentive-based compensation, how does that work?

    • Am I still eligible for my full bonus, or is it a pro-rata share?

    • How will commissions be paid out while I am on leave?

How Benefits Are Handled While on Maternity Leave

  • How is my health insurance paid for while I’m on leave? (If your leave is unpaid, you may have to mail in a check for your portion of your health insurance.) What about contributions to flexible spending accounts?

  • If you have life insurance or disability insurance through your company: How is my life insurance paid?

  • Do I accrue benefits while out on leave? (Ask about retirement fund contributions, vacation days or sick days, time toward a sabbatical, and any other benefits your employer may offer.)

  • What are the terms of my short-term disability coverage? What happens if I have medical complications and need to leave early?

    • How much of my salary will I receive?

    • Will this count as part of my maternity leave?

The Nitty Gritty Logistics of Maternity Leave

  • What forms do I need to complete, and when?

    • When is the FMLA form due?

    • Is there a form for Short-Term Disability?

  • When do I need to finalize my departure and return to work dates?

  • How do I add my child to my health insurance and make other open enrollment changes (like flexible spending account elections)? What is the deadline for doing this?

  • Do you offer a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account? How does that work?

  • How do I add my child as a beneficiary on my retirement account and employer-provided life insurance?

Your Return to Work After Maternity Leave

  • Does the company allow teleworking or flex-time?

  • Are there mother’s rooms or other facilities for pumping moms? (Ask to see it; you can find a checklist of things to look for in the appendix.)

  • Are there any other benefits for new parents that I should be aware of?

Found this helpful? Here’s what else you’ll find in the book:

  • Why you shouldn’t be stressing about telling your boss — and why you should be carefully considering how you’ll tell your colleagues

  • What to do if your company doesn’t have a parental leave policy… or has a terrible one

  • Things you can do while you’re pregnant to set yourself up for success when you return post-baby

  • An introduction to benevolent discrimination — and how to avoid it (along with my story of experiencing it at a major Wall Street bank)

  • How to evaluate your childcare options, and the in-depth pros and cons of each

  • The specific, actionable strategies women have employed to make their partner a true partner