Before you read this blog any further you have to promise me that you won't research the maternity benefits of every other country in the world. The benefits available to new mothers in the United States are pathetic compared to what women around the world receive. It is an embarrassment. That being said, there are some benefits available and I encourage you to take advantage where you can.
I can't believe that my sweet baby G is a running, babbling toddler. Where has the time gone!?! My beautiful daughter just turned 12 this winter and that seems impossible. There is no job more wonderful than being a mother!
A huge part of the reason I got into the industry was to have flexibility and be able to enjoy time with my kids. I knew that I wanted my family to be my priority and this is one of the few careers where that is truly possible. I just finished my maternity leave a year ago and was very fortunate to have had a full 16 weeks of paid leave to take care of myself and bond with my beautiful baby boy. I'm in California which has one of the most generous maternity leave systems in place, however we aren't the only ones and I often hear stories of missed benefits due to lack of knowledge.
I did hours of research leading up to my leave and swore that I'd write a post detailing my findings so that hopefully other hairstylist mamas will take full advantage of pregnancy disability options.
PREGNANCY LEAVE SUPPORT FOR COMISSIONED, HOURLY OR SALARIED EMPLOYEES IN CALIFORNIA, NEW YORK, NEW JERSEY, HAWAII AND RHODE ISLAND:
If you receive a paycheck from your employer with pre-calculated deductions, chances are that you pay into your states disability plan. With disability coverage you are entitled to receive 40%-60% of your wages (varies by state) for up to 4 weeks before your due date and up to 6 weeks after you have you baby. You can receive up to 8 weeks of benefits after the baby is born if you have a C-section. Your baby is stubborn like mine were and ends up overdue? No worries, you will still be covered from 4 weeks before your due date through the date of delivery and then 6 weeks after he or she finally makes her grand entrance. Your doctor will help you to get your claim started and must submit their authorized statement before you can start receiving benefits. You can not file your claim until you are officially on leave and there is a 10 day waiting period before paid benefits will start.
Are you a dad? Guess what?!? You most likely qualify too! Can't stand the thought of leaving a 6 week old baby at home? Now you don't have to!
EXTENDED LEAVE SUPPORT FOR COMISSIONED, HOURLY OR SALARIED EMPLOYEES IN CALIFORNIA, NEW JERSEY AND RHODE ISLAND:
California took a huge step in the right direction in 2002 when they put the Paid Family Leave program in place. New Jersey followed suit and now California and New Jersey mamas can extend their maternity leave by an additional 6 weeks at a rate equal to 55%-60% of their normal wage. This must be taken after the disability coverage has expired and can begin the day the disability pay concludes. Rhode Island instituted a similar law allowing for 4 weeks of additional paid leave once the standard Social Security benefit concludes.
UPAID, JOB PROTECTED FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE OF ABSENCE (FMLA LEAVE) FOR COMMISSIONED, HOURLY OR SALARIED EMPLOYEES IN MANY STATES
Not all states have adopted FMLA and benefits to vary greatly. I suggest that you review the laws and options in your own state before finalizing your leave of absence before or after delivery.
Employees eligible for FMLA have worked for their employers for at least 12 months, including at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months. Additionally, the employee must work within 75 miles of where 50 or more employees work (i.e. if you work in a small, remote town, this may not apply). FMLA leave is guaranteed unpaid, but employers or employees can opt to use paid vacation or sick time, when this is allowed by an employer. Both men and women are eligible for FMLA leave which means dads can use this time to bond too. Your employer is required to continue your health insurance coverage during your FMLA leave. If you've been paying a portion of your health insurance premiums, you'll have to continue doing so during your FMLA leave. If you don't want to take all 12 weeks of FMLA leave in a row, you may be able to break it down into shorter blocks of time, or even a shorter work week or work day. When possible, employees who are planning to use FMLA leave are required to tell their employers 30 days before the leave would begin. But if you have pregnancy complications that require you to stop working before the baby is born, the 12 weeks of FMLA leave would begin then.
ADDITIONAL BENEFIT OPTIONS FOR THOSE WHO ARE EMPLOYEES OR BUSINESS OWNERS (BOOTH OR SUITE RENTERS)
Have you ever seen the totally obnoxious commercials where a duck is rambling on about insurance? Well, that duck can save you big time if you take a maternity leave. Aflac is a company that offers supplemental insurance for accidents, long term illness, a Cancer specific policy and all kinds of other options. The policies that seem to work best for maternity leave are the Short-Term Disability Policy, Personal Sickness Policy & Hospital Indemnity Policy*. Some mamas enjoy $1,700-$4,400 within days of delivering. Awesome!
Aflac coverage does vary state to state and some states do not offer the Short Term Disability Policy to those who are self employed. Rates can also vary any where from $10/month-$80/month depending on what policies you select and the state you live in. The other really big catch is that you have to be enrolled essentially 30 days or more before you become pregnant. Coverage doesn't kick in until 10 months after you enroll and if you happened to deliver early you could end up without payment if you cut it too close. I suggest enrolling at least 2 months before you hope to get pregnant just to be sure.
*Note that policies are ever changing. Be sure to contact a representative before signing up or counting on any benefits.
SAVING FOR MATERNITY LEAVE
If all else fails, you can always kick it old school and just save up extra cash. Generally, you have 9 months to prepare for baby once you find out you're pregnant. That means 36 weeks to make some major savings happen. Here is a chart that can help you plan and save for some time to stay home with your new little love:
Saving $20 per week will be $720 saved when baby arrives
Saving $50 per week will be $1,800 saved when baby arrives
Saving $100 per week will be $3,600 saved when baby arrives
Saving $200 per week will be $7,200 saved when baby arrives
For many stylists, just saving tip money for several months add up to a big chunk of change. Stick to a budget and commit to saving. You never get those precious first few weeks back so enjoy them as much as you possibly can.
MAINTAINING YOUR CLIENTELE
Money aside, maintaining clientele is probably the biggest concern for stylists who are getting ready to take a leave of absence. There are a few things you can do to prepare your clients for the transition and maintain as much as possible. You'll first want to connect with a stylist you know and trust. Trust being the biggest factor here. You want to be able to refer your clients to a stylist who uses similar techniques and, most importantly, has a similar personality so that your clients feel comfortable. You'll also want to pre-book your clients appointment for after your return from leave to ensure they don't wander. Even just having something secured on your books will make them think twice about straying. Email marketing and social media is also crucial during this time. Maintain your monthly newsletters and use this time to share a picture or two (don't go too overboard) of your new, sweet love through social media to stay in the forefront of your clients mind.
Above all else, enjoy the ride. The first few weeks are the most exhausting, overwhelming, confusing weeks of your life and it is the most memorable and beautiful experience anyone can ever imagine.