A Guide To Writing a Parental Leave Letter

How to prepare your employer for your time off work

Pregnant woman writing a maternity letter
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Finding out you’re expecting a child can be exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. You’re preparing to raise a child, but you also have to think about how parenthood will affect your career, starting with your parental leave. You can provide formal notice to your employer in the form of a parental leave letter. Learn about how and when to write your parental leave letter.

Key Takeaways

  • When writing your parental leave letter, include the type of parental leave, the dates you expect to be gone, and a coverage plan for your absence.
  • It’s best to let your employer know about your plan to take parental leave as soon as possible.
  • You should provide an official written notice of parental leave to your employer, even if you let them know verbally.
  • Consider keeping in touch with your employer during your leave to make the return process smoother.

Access to Parental Leave

In the U.S., the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year, which can be used for parental leave. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of March 2021, 23% of private and civilian employees had access to paid leave, and 89% of private and civilian employees had access to unpaid family leave.

Check with your manager or HR department to find out if you have access to paid parental leave.

What To Include in a Parental Leave Letter

By the time you write your formal parental leave letter, you may have already notified your employer of your news, including the dates you expect to be out for leave. However, it’s important to be thorough in your letter since it will serve as your official notice.

“Be sure to state the nature of your request, whether it is for maternity leave, paternity leave, or adoption leave,” said Richard Smith, a senior HR manager with Notta.

The type of leave you’ll be taking can affect your time off. For example, if you are giving birth, your employer may offer you more leave time than a parent who isn’t giving birth.

Communicate the dates you’ll be out and make your leave process as simple as possible for both yourself and your employer.

Babies rarely come on a set schedule. The actual dates you’ll be out of work may be different from what you state in your letter. But if you provide estimated dates upfront, your employer will be able to better plan for your absence.

A Plan for Your Absence

Let your employer know if you have made any plans to ensure your work gets done while you are out. “By including all of this information upfront, you can help to ensure a smooth and seamless transition for both you and your employer,” said Smith.

To make things easier for your employer, you might want to consider including a proposal for how your work will be covered while you’re gone, how you’ll transition your work to someone else during your leave, and how you’ll transition back into work when your leave ends.

Including this information may give your employer more peace of mind about coverage during your absence, as well as your plans to return after leave. Additionally, it can give you the opportunity to request special accommodations, such as working from home for a time or returning part-time before resuming your normal work schedule.

Ultimately, the parental leave letter should serve to get everyone on the same page so there are no unpleasant surprises or misunderstandings when it’s time for your leave.

When To Write a Parental Leave Letter

The next thing to consider when writing your parental leave letter is the timing. Some workers may postpone telling their employer the big news for fear of how they’ll react. But the more notice you can give, the more seamless the process will be for everyone.

“The best time to communicate with your employer about your pregnancy is as soon as you know, or as soon as you are ready to share the news,” Smith said. “This way, your employer can start planning for your leave and ensuring that coverage is in place.”

Although your parental leave letter serves as official notice of your upcoming absence, employees can choose to share the news with their employers verbally first. However, you should still send your manager your letter and parental leave request as soon as you reasonably can. Make sure you’re giving your employer the amount of notice required.

Required Notice

Depending on your state, your employer, and the type of leave you plan to take, you may be required to give a certain amount of notice. Under FMLA, employees should generally plan to give at least 30 days' notice, as long as they’re able to.

Some states may also have their own requirements, depending on their parental leave laws. Some companies may have minimum notice requirements if you want to take paid time off for parental leave.

Communication While on Leave

Touch base with your employer occasionally while you’re out. “During your leave, it is important to stay in touch with your employer to update them on your status and let them know when you plan to return,” Smith said. “By keeping the lines of communication open, you can help ensure a smooth transition back to work.”

You can check in throughout your leave. However, you may want to let your employer or manager know when the baby officially arrives, or just check in with them as you approach your return-to-work date.

Sample Parental Leave Request Letter

Starting a letter like this one can often be the most challenging part. The sample letter below can serve as a template you can use when writing your own parental leave letter.


[Name]

[Address]

[Date]


[Manager Name]

[Company Name]

[Manager Address]


Dear [Name], 

This letter is to inform you that [I/my partner and I] are expecting a child, and I plan to take parental leave. My due date is [date]. I plan to continue working until [date] or until the baby arrives, whichever comes first. I plan to take [number] weeks of parental leave, with an expected return-to-work date of [date].

During my absence, I suggest [coworker’s name] be in charge of [specific projects or tasks, possibly naming different coworkers for different tasks]. I am happy to spend time leading up to my leave bringing them up to speed.

When I return from my parental leave, I’ll be able to return [full-time, part-time, work-from-home]. At that time, I can take over [projects or tasks] once again. At that time, I’ll work with [coworker’s name] to get caught up on the current status of everything.

While I’m on parental leave, please feel free to contact me at [personal email address] or [personal phone number], and I will respond when I’m able. I’ll stay in touch throughout my leave to ensure a smooth transition back to work.

Please let me know if there’s any additional information or forms you’ll need from me leading up to my parental leave. If anything changes regarding the status or dates of my leave, I will keep you updated.

Kind regards,

[Signature]

[Name]

The Bottom Line

It’s easy to find yourself worrying about how your manager or team will react to the news of your parental leave. And in a work-centered society, many people find themselves feeling guilty or like they’re letting their team down by taking time off. But chances are that the people you work with will be supportive and excited for you. The more communication there is, the smoother the transition will be for everyone involved.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who is entitled to parental leave?

In the U.S., all workers covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) will be entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during the year. FMLA applies to employers with 50 or more employees and employees who have worked for their employers at least 12 months, at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months, and at a location with at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius. Additionally, companies not required to comply with FMLA may still offer parental leave to their employees.

Which country has the best parental leave?

Estonia offers the best parental leave, which adds up to roughly 82 weeks. A new mother is able to take 140 days of maternity leave at her full pay. After that, parents qualify for a parental benefit for 435 days, which they can take themselves or share with their partner or family member.

Article Sources

  1. U.S. Department of Labor. “Family and Medical Leave.”

  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “What Data Does the BLS Publish on Family Leave?

  3. U.S. Department of Labor. “Fact Sheet #28E.” Page 1.

  4. Women’s Empowerment Principles. “Spotlight on Public Policy.” Page 1.