Questions to Ask HR About Maternity Leave

Thanks to our friend Allyson Downey for sharing this piece with Nine Naturals! Allyson is the founder of weeSpring and the author of the book Here's the Plan, the pregnancy and parenting guide to professional life. 

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!)

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?


Allyson Downey is an entrepreneur, writer, MBA, and parent who has built a career on the power of trusted advice. In 2013, she launched weeSpring, a Techstars-backed startup that helps new and expecting parents collect advice from their friends about what they need for their baby.  She is also the author of the book Here's the Plan, the pregnancy and parenting guide to your professional life.