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The State of Maternity Leave

Back On the Job

Almost 60 percent of you discovered that work was no different when you returned. An associate with an executive search firm in New York City told us she eased back in without trouble, settling into the same position after a two-and-a-half-month leave. But others found the transition difficult or their workplace transformed. A marketing executive for a health care company near San Antonio was told that she wouldn't be considered for a raise for several months since she'd been out for 14 weeks. "It was as if my work had been wiped off the slate," she says. Those of you who took more than four months off experienced the most changes in your job, reporting that you were twice as likely to be taken less seriously upon your return and three times as likely to be given fewer responsibilities.

One of the most encouraging survey findings: Many of you were able to make arrangements to ease your transition back to work or to better balance your job and your family after the baby's arrival. An office administrator at a construction company in Knoxville, TN, says that her supervisor surprised her by suggesting that she bring her daughter to work every day: "I would never have imagined that it would be my boss who would lift the worry of daycare off my shoulders!"

Some of the work shifts you made:

  • 8 percent began to telecommute a few days a week
  • 8 percent took advantage of flextime or job-sharing
  • 23 percent switched to part-time work.

One mother from Ballston Spa, NY, scaled back to two days a week at a manufacturing company. By working as an hourly consultant, she makes almost as much as she did on a full-time salary. Jennifer Brinker, a social worker from Crownsville, MD, reports that her boss split her position so she could work half time: "He said some of me was better than none at all."

Numerous women recounted how their manager went to great lengths to keep them. Elizabeth Walsh of Maplewood, NJ, got a promotion upon returning from her leave. "I saw it as 'Please stay with us. We value you,'" says Walsh, who now works two days in the office and three days at home.

Such cases show there are businesses trying to come up with alternative work scenarios to attract employees, says Ellen Bravo of 9 to 5. "It can be a win-win situation, since good family policies increase loyalty." In short, they're good for everyone.