How To Negotiate Maternity Leave With Your Boss

If you're nervous about approaching your boss, follow these steps

Short-haired pregnant employee presenting before colleagues in an office

Marko Geber / Getty Images

Mothers with new children need time to bond with the baby, and that often means some time off from work. The amount of time off and whether you will be paid for maternity leave varies from employer to employer. This can be an added stressor for many women; however, maternity leave is often is up for negotiation. Consider negotiating maternity leave with your boss by following these steps.

Key Takeaways

  • Maternity leave allows new moms time to bond with their baby, and recover if they've physically given birth
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows certain parents 12-weeks of parental leave over a 12-month period
  • Private companies meeting certain criteria are covered under the FMLA, but may have their own maternity leave policies
  • Review you company's maternity leave policy, see if it works for you and come up with a plan to negotiate
  • Do your research, and talk to colleagues that have recently taken maternity leave to understand their challenges before you negotiate

What Is Maternity Leave?

Maternity leave allows new moms time to spend time with their baby, and recover if they've physically given birth.

Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), certain parents of either gender can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work to care for a new child.


Leave under the FMLA is available to parents to bond with their newborn, newly adopted or newly placed child.

To qualify, the new parent must have been with their company for at least a year and worked at least 1,250 hours during the past year. They must also work for a company with 50 or more employees.

Some companies will offer paid maternity leave for a period of six weeks or more, but others offer nothing.

The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act) was introduced in Congress in February 2017. If the bill passes, it will provide paid family and medical leave, equal to roughly two-thirds of a person's monthly pay up to a maximum of $4,000, for up to 60 days of qualified caregiving in a year.

Determine How and Where You'll Negotiate

Depending on the formality of your office, carefully choose the medium by which you announce your pregnancy. You may have to provide a maternity leave letter, but it's best to have a face-to-face meeting in the office prior to handing in your letter, which may also need to be submitted to the company's human resources department.


You want to talk with your boss about your maternity leave options before the office rumor mill begins working. For this reason, it's wise to request a face-to-face meeting with your boss before announcing to your co-workers that you're pregnant.

Discussing maternity leave should happen sooner rather than later in most offices. This extended time frame allows your employer to devise a plan for when you're on maternity leave.

What Do You Want Your Maternity Leave to Look Like

Before meeting with your boss and negotiating maternity leave, figure out the number of weeks you'd like to take off from work after your baby comes home. Check with your company's human resources department or the employee handbook to see if your company has a policy regarding maternity leave.


If there is a company policy on maternity leave, decide if it's right for you or if you'd like to take more time off.

For example, perhaps the company offers six weeks of paid leave, but you want more time before returning to work after you've had your baby. You may want to take the employer-provided time as well as an additional leave of absence under the FMLA.

Present Your Maternity Leave Plan to Your Manager

Once in the meeting, clearly state your desired maternity leave. Then sit back and listen. Consider this conversation a starting point for discussion, and keep an open mind when it comes to your employer's concerns or needs.

If you desire more maternity leave than what is outlined by your human resources department or in your company handbook, explain your reasons. For example, if your company doesn't offer paid leave and you can afford to take 10 weeks unpaid, tell your superiors exactly why you need this time off from work. It could be because your partner can't take time off from work, you don't have a nanny lined up yet, or you simply desire to be home during this time in your baby's life. 


Try and talk to colleagues about their experiences with maternity leave, any challenges that they faced and how they worked with their managers to find an acceptable solution.

Start Negotiating Maternity Leave

If there isn't a firm company policy on maternity leave, ask for what you want. If your boss is agreeable, the process is over.

If you desire more maternity leave than your company policy allows, cite, in writing, concrete reasons you need this leave, such as:

  • You need time to transition into your new role as a mother and you want to start a quality relationship with your baby
  • You need time to arrange for childcare that works for your family when you're back at work. Challenges include separation anxiety for mothers, and availability and affordability of childcare options.
  • If you've given birth and are breastfeeding, you would need time to transition your baby to a bottle and prepare for pumping at work, if that's what you intend to do.


If your company doesn't offer paid maternity leave and you can't afford to take unpaid leave, try to work out a flexible schedule where you might be able to work from home.

The Bottom Line

Having a new baby is challenging and stressful on its own, its better to have a plan and a maternity leave that works for you for when you decide to get back to work. Reviewing the maternity leave policy at your company, getting a sense of your colleagues' experience and having a plan to talk to your manager can help you negotiate the terms of your time away from work.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is maternity leave?

Maternity leave can vary from employer to employer but private companies, that employs 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or previous calendar year, are covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA allows workers to take up to 12 workweeks in a 12-month period for parental leave to care for a newborn, newly adopted or newly placed child.

When does maternity leave start?

Maternity leave doesn't necessarily have to start after you bring your baby home. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you're eligible to take maternity leave for prenatal care or inability work due to health issues related to pregnancies.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Labor. "Family and Medical Leave Act Benefits Workers and Their Families, Employers."

  2. U.S. Department of Labor. "Family and Medical Leave (FMLA)."

  3. "S.248 - FAMILY Act."

  4. Harvard Business Review. "How to Negotiate Your Parental Leave (requires subscription)."

  5. U.S. Department of Labor. "Frequently Asked Questions and Answers About the Revisions to the Family and Medical Leave Act."

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