Tuesday, September 8, 2009

19 weeks

This is not the post I wanted to write today.

Today took a turn that has left me in a very foul mood... this post is a bit more spit and fire than most of mine, and rest assured, this is the censored version, I'm using all the actual 4 lettered words in my head.

My company offers NO maternity benefits (just like it offers NO infertility coverage). My ONLY option for time off is FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act). For those that are unfamiliar with FMLA, it allows you to take up to 12 weeks UNPAID vacation in a 12 month period for certain reasons (like birth or adoption of a child) and guarantees your same level of position when you return. It only applies to employers of a certain size. It may not be perfect, it may even still suck, but at least we have it, God Bless Bill Clinton (G.H.W. Bush can go to hell, he vetoed it twice).

But before I can use FMLA I have to use ALL of my saved up sick leave and vacation. I haven't taken a vacation in more than 2 freakin years because I thought I would have more flexibility in how it was used in case I ever actually got pregnant. If I would have known that, I would have take a little freakin time a while ago, because I NEED A FREAKIN VACATION.

But it get's better... I was thinking with my approximately 8 weeks of accrued sick leave and vacation, I could potentially take FMLA for up to 12 weeks on top of that for up to a total of 20 weeks (in case I ended up on bed rest or something). WRONG. Those accrued 8 weeks apparently count as part of the 12 according to my HR. Apparently they can force you to use accrued time off concurrently with FMLA.

Why the hell did I toil without a single day off (unless you count my gallbladder surgery) for the last couple years if it's not going to help me one bit?

So why the freak don't I just take a vacation now? Might as well use some of that vacation to enjoy and relax right? I'm still maxed at 12 weeks either way, whether I go into it with 6 weeks accrued time or 8 weeks... might as well enjoy a couple of them.

pisses me off. I just thought that my relatively small company had more compassion and flexibility than that. pissed.

Oh, yeah, and that vacation, I totally would, except we're living on a tight budget cause babies are expensive and we don't have the money to spend on personal enjoyment right now. And I'm kinda freaked about flying due to fear or getting sick. I wish their was somewhere close and reasonable and fun to go around here.

I was only planning on taking off 2 months, but now I know I'm screwed if things don't go off as smoothly as I planned.

And just to make the other REALLY sucky part of this clear, I'm due in early February and will have to use up all of my alloted time off. I will have zero days left for the entire rest of the year to take my kid to the doctor, or take a trip to DH's family for Christmas next year. Zero Days. I have no freakin clue what I'll do. It's not like I was able to choose what time of year I would give birth. I'm lucky to be pregnant at all, and I'm sure my company has no idea that this goes so far beyond their stupid policy.

When I found all this out today, I just closed my door and cried. I'm happy to be pregnant, and don't care what time of year I give birth, I just wish my stupid employer had a little compassion on the matter.


For Richer or Poorer said...

I'm so sorry to hear this - it's a really sucky position for you to have to be in. Do you think it has anything to do with the fact that engineering has traditionally been male-heavy, and perhaps the HR dept is just far behind the times? Either way, it just plain stinks. I know the last thing you want to do is to extra work, but I wonder if you call around to a few other competitor's HR firms (anonymously) and ask about their maternity leave policies for comparison sake? Might be worth doing this and sending a memo to your Director of HR about what other similar firms are doing. This could be the impetus needed to reconsider and update your company's policy.

PS: I have posted a couple times (ex: about Catholic mass and germs) but I used to use "Libby-CT" as my handle.

Sophie said...

Ugh! That sounds a lot like most insurance companies, it sucks that work is like that. I don't know if this will help, but have you tried talking to the boss about it? That just seems like such an unfair policy. I know it can be kind of scary to ask, but maybe you can just see if they've possibly changed their policy? I dunno, this is definitely a tough situation.

Amanda said...

Good ideas ladies, but I've already done about all I can here.

Yes, I absolutely think it has something to do with engineering being a predominately male occupation. The president of the company was in my office on Friday and I told him personally that we don't have any maternity benefits and if the company is serious about diversity and hiring women, then they should consider maternity leave or at least a better solution than this.

So I have talked to all 3 of my local bosses about this, the current president of the company and the former president of the company. It falls on deaf ears every time, and I have really tried and taken a big risk with bringing this up like I have (as I am but a lowly young engineer that doesn't even have a PE yet).

I'm in a small market area because of my husband's job but probably have better benefits than most engineers in the area, but they are very lacking in this area.

The Wife said...

Dude! That sucks! I'm so sorry that you're having to go through this.

Michelle said...

Oh that really sucks! I had to take the FMLA leave during pregnancy a few times, but for some reason they turned it into short term disability for it being "medically necessary" for time off or something. Maybe there is a way they can make that go into effect for at least those first 6 weeks till you'd be technically cleared?
I quit before delivery so I don't know how it would have worked really...and it was too long ago for me to understand it now.

Amanda said...

I have to be off for more than 70 days before short-term disability kicks in for me.

Jill said...

My maternity leave will go like this:(All covered under FMLA, which is basically just a job holder)

Week 1:sick/vacation time

Week 2-6: Short term Disability (75% of base pay- good think I'm delivering after the 1st of the year, or I'd only get 65%)

Any time after that: vacation/sick time until it's gone and then unpaid up to 12 weeks TOTAL (because FMLA only holds my job for 12 weeks total)

The good thing about your company is that you CAN roll over your vacation time from year to year- we can't.... so at least you'll be getting 100% of your pay for whatever time you take off. (maybe that's a silver lining?)

Suraita said...

My leave is a combo of what you described and what Jill said in her comment. I have no useful info to offer but I am pretty frustrated about it too. I have an issue (unicornuate uterus) that makes me more likely than the average person to possibly need bedrest and/or hospital time so I have no idea how that will work nor do I wish to know until I need to. Though I'm hoping to be lucky and not have to ever find out.

I don't work in a traditionally male field like you but I work as a professional subject specialist for a large company (can I be more vague?) whose largest departments primarily hire people just out of college who work for a few years and leave by the employee's choice for a non-entry level job - so like in a traditonally male field maternity benefits just aren't an issue for the biggest number of employees. The whole company caters around those employees so it is very frustrating. I'm thinking of taking all my vacation in one big lump at the end of December since it doesn't roll over.

Unrelated - I am one day behind you - 19 weeks today instead of yesterday so I enjoy reading you because we seem to go through a lot of the same stuff at the same time. :)

Amanda said...

No Jill, I would much rather have taken some real vacation now and then and gotten 75% pay like you're going to get and be able to take my sick child to the dr than get no compensatory benefits and then have to take off time without pay if I want to take my child to the dr.

And my vacation only accumulates for 2 years and I've been keeping it under the limit by using it to go to all my many drs. appointments. No vacations, just appointments.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that completely sucks. I used to work for the federal government, and the maternity leave for them sucked too - only accrued vacation and sick leave and then unpaid time up to 12 weeks.

It is horrifying that your sick and vacation time count towards the 12 weeks of FMLA! That is just crappy. Yeah, and then what do you do when your baby is sick and you have no sick time left?

I think that it is great that you have spoken up about the crappy maternity benefits in your company, but I'm sorry that nobody is doing anything about it. Can you point out to your boss that you will be forced to take unpaid leave for those inevitable doctor visits for baby? Will your direct boss give you any leeway or work from home options? Would he hold your job for you unofficially if you needed extra time because of bed rest or complications?

I'm sorry that your company is so backwards. Can your husband take FMLA and stay with the baby after you go back to work?

Congrats on 19 weeks, by the way! You are almost halfway done!