Pregnancy brings a season of joy and hopeful expectation of what’s to come. But it’s also accompanied by concerns about the future. For working women, those future concerns include planning and preparing for your maternity leave replacement, whether it’s temporary or permanent.
Here, you will find a brief guide to help you prepare a plan for your maternity leave replacement. I know from personal experience that creating a (flexible!) maternity leave replacement plan for the months ahead will help you feel less stressed and set clear expectations between you and your boss.
You’ll need two sets of plans. First, a plan for your maternity leave replacement. Second, a plan for your transition back to work.
Plan for your maternity leave replacement
Talk to your boss
Deciding when to share your news is a very personal decision. However, I recommend telling your boss at some point in the second trimester, and no later than 30 days before your expected due date if you plan to take advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act.
At a minimum, let your boss know with enough time so you can create a comprehensive maternity leave plan and start training your maternity leave replacement(s). Not only is this respectful to your company, boss, and fellow employees, but it also will reassure your boss of your commitment to your job.
I also recommend telling your boss before you tell any other coworkers. You don’t want your boss finding out through the gossip chain.
Research for your maternity leave replacement plan
You’ll want to have this plan developed ideally before your third trimester. My pregnancy brain hit hard in the third trimester. And you want to be prepared just in case you need to leave earlier than expected.
Before you begin developing your plan, do some research. Determine your federal and state guaranteed maternity leave rights (here’s an article on your maternity leave rights in Virginia). If possible, it’s also helpful to also talk to another recent mom at your work about their experience planning for their maternity leave replacement.
Develop your maternity leave replacement plan
Your maternity leave replacement plan should include the 4 primary elements outlined below. Remember to remain flexible!
How much time you’ll take off
Your boss and your replacement will need to know what to expect for your leave timeline. If you work at a company with 50 or more employees, FMLA guarantees you up to 12 weeks of leave (though it might be unpaid) and still be able to return to your job.
Start and end dates of your leave
Some moms choose to start their leave a month before their due date. Others choose to begin right at their due date or beginning of labor (cue The Office episode when Pam’s water breaks at work). When you choose to start your leave will affect the end date, as your leave begins on your first day off whether or not you’ve delivered the baby yet.
Who will cover your responsibilities
Before determining who will cover for you, you should develop a detailed list of everything your position entails, from day-to-day tasks to ongoing projects. I recommend writing down what you do as you’re doing it. And if SOPs don’t already exist, you should also develop some for your responsibilities. All this should ideally be done sometime in the middle of your second trimester.
Once you know what needs to be covered, you should discuss with your boss who will cover for you. Will you divide your tasks among a team of employees? Hire a temp? Outsource to a remote team (like us!) to cover all or some of your responsibilities?
You’ll want to find a maternity leave replacement you can trust so that you have peace of mind about work while you’re away. If you choose a remote team like Ingenium, you’ll not only have peace of mind about hiring quality coverage, but you’ll also have an entire team covering for you — ensuring that no important tasks get dropped and you can seamlessly transition out of and back into your role.
Whichever replacement solution is right for you, I recommend having this conversation with your boss a few weeks before the end of your second trimester to provide ample time for hiring (if you choose a temp or outsourcing) and training your maternity leave replacement.
It’s a good idea to start training your replacement(s) as early as possible in the third trimester. You should review and edit the SOPs in detail with your replacement so they’re as clear as possible (especially if you don’t want to be contacted during leave).
If you’re able, have your maternity leave replacement ready and on standby before the last month of your pregnancy.
How accessible you’ll be while on leave
You’ll need to prep your boss and replacement for how accessible you plan to be while on leave. Whether you plan to completely unplug (which I urge and highly recommend) or be partially available, you need to set clear expectations with your boss, team, and replacement.
Check out this article from Verywell Family for more information on planning for your maternity leave replacement.
Plan for your transition back to work
Women plan how they’ll transition back to work differently. Some choose to come back full speed at the end of their leave. Others choose to come back slowly, easing themselves into their hours and responsibilities.
Either way, you’ll need to discuss with your boss what options are available to you. You’ll also need to revisit your plans with your boss near the end of your maternity leave as your desires might change, like mine did.
It’s also helpful to plan a debriefing meeting a week or two before you start working. Especially if you’re in a managerial position, this will give you a leg-up when it’s time to restart. You might also want to start childcare the week prior to your return to work so you have an opportunity to practice the routine ahead of time.
And don’t be surprised if this transition brings up a slew of emotions. Not only are your hormones still settling down, but you’ve just gone through a huge life change combined with sleep deprivation. Give yourself some grace during this season! Make sure you communicate how you’re feeling to your partner, spouse, or trusted friend. And there’s definitely no shame in talking to a counselor or a therapist if you need a little extra help! I did, and it made a huge difference.
Work with Ingenium for your maternity leave replacement
Ingenium offers remote maternity leave coverage for admin, finance, and marketing services. Our established team of problem-solvers has experience in a wide variety of business sectors including health, beauty, finance, real estate, legal services, recreational activities and sports, media, and construction trades.
Let’s have a conversation to find out if hiring our outsourced team is right for you and your company. We can review the specific tasks that need coverage. Before your maternity leave begins, we can help you organize SOPs for each task and develop an outline of who handles which issues. Our goal is for you to completely unplug from work and easily jump back in when you’re ready.
Here’s what it’s like to work with us:
“It was such a gift to know that my duties were covered with excellence while I was away. Hannah and Chrissy were an absolute pleasure to work with and even went above and beyond to improve our workflows and documentation. You are definitely our first call with my next baby.”
—Valerie Smith, Director of Talent and Operations at The Dispatch