- Leave policies that apply to new parents
- Steps to help your employee prepare for leave
- Best practices to facilitate successful pre- and post-leave transitions for your employee and team
*This includes Postdoc Associates. If you are managing or supervising a Postdoc Fellow, visit MIT Paid Leave for New Parent Postdocs for information on how best to approach their leave.
Step One: Understand Terms and Policies
The first thing on your to-do list is to familiarize yourself with the leave policies that apply to new parents. This is important for the following reasons:
- Depending on the situation, your employee may be entitled to certain leave benefits—under MIT policy and under state or federal law.
- Leave policies for new parents may have changed since the last time you reviewed them.
- Understanding eligibility requirements and how much leave your employee is entitled to will help you and your department/lab/center prepare for their leave.
Birth mothers are considered disabled during the initial post-partum recovery period, and therefore, are eligible for leave under MIT’s sick leave policy. Officially, this form of leave is defined as Leave Associated with Pregnancy and Childbirth. Unofficially, this form of leave is often referred to as Maternity Leave. For simplicity’s sake, the term Maternity Leave is used below. Before reading on, please review the eligibility requirements to determine if your employee is eligible for MIT Maternity Leave:
Individuals who are eligible for MIT Maternity Leave are entitled to take up to 8 weeks of leave under MIT’s sick leave policy. Leave must be taken consecutively, beginning with the day your employee gives birth. Consistent with MIT sick leave policies, pay during leave will depend on your employee’s position at MIT. Before reading on, please review information regarding pay during MIT Maternity Leave:
MIT offers benefits-eligible new parent employees, who have been employed by MIT for at least one year, with time away from the workplace for parental bonding. This form of leave is referred to as MIT Paid Parental Leave. Paid parental leave has been shown to reduce turnover, and improve employee morale, well-being, and productivity. Before reading on, please review the eligibility requirements to determine if your employee is eligible for MIT Paid Parental Leave:
Individuals who are eligible for MIT Paid Parental Leave are entitled to take up to 20 days of paid leave. Pay during leave is 100% of your employee’s usual salary. Employees in all payroll categories (other than faculty, who have special leave-related policies) are eligible for MIT Paid Parental Leave, so long as they are otherwise benefits-eligible and have completed at least one year of service at MIT. Service Staff should review their collective bargaining agreements regarding all leave benefits.
MIT Paid Parental Leave may be taken consecutively or intermittently within 6 months of the birth, adoption or placement of your employee’s child. The increments at which intermittent leave may be taken will depend on your employee’s position at MIT. Before reading on, please review specifics regarding MIT Paid Parental Leave increments and tracking:
Your employee’s usual salary during MIT Paid Parental Leave will be covered using funds from the central Employee Benefits (EB) pool and not from departmental funds. This transfer in funding source is intended to directly reduce the burden on DLCs.
In addition to MIT Maternity Leave and MIT Paid Parental Leave, birth mothers and new parents who did not give birth may also be eligible for:
- Up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (Personnel Policy Manual Sec. 4.5)
- Up to 8 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave under the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act (Personnel Policy Manual Sec. 4.6.2)
Family Medical Leave and Massachusetts Parental Leave often run concurrently with MIT Maternity Leave and with MIT Paid Parental Leave. However, in certain cases, an employee may opt to take Paid Parental Leave separately after exhausting Family Medical Leave and Massachusetts Parental Leave.
Before reading on, please review Understanding Paid Leave and FMLA/MPLA. If you have questions, please contact the MIT Disabilities Services and Medical Leaves Office (617-253-4572 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Now that you have reviewed the current leave policies that apply to new parents, the next step is to develop a leave plan with your employee. A leave plan will include:
- Your employee’s leave schedule—that is, the dates that they plan to be out of the office.
- Your plans for work-load coverage during your employee’s absence.
See best practices below regarding how to discuss this topic with your employee and how to develop a plan. If you have questions or concerns around having this conversation, you may also contact your Human Resources Officer or MIT MyLife Services to confidentially explore this topic with a Master’s or Ph.D.-level professional.
We recommend that you start to develop a leave plan no later than 4-6 months before the anticipated birthdate, adoption or placement of your employee’s child.
- Employee Leave of Absence Request Form is used by the MIT Disabilities and Medical Leaves Services Office to approve and process your employee’s Maternity Leave and Parental Leave. This form requires your approval and is contingent on you and your employee mutually agreeing upon a leave schedule.
- If your employee is a birth mother who plans to take MIT Maternity Leave, we recommend that she submit this form, complete with your approval, no later than 2-4 months before the anticipated birthdate of her baby.
- If your employee is a new parent who did not give birth, they mustsubmit this online form, complete with your approval, no later than 30 days after the first day of their Parental Leave. We recommend that the form be completed well before then, if possible. If this step is not completed within the 30 days, your employee will not be paid for the full duration of their Parental Leave. No exceptions.
Below are a number of best practices and materials, intended to help you develop and implement a successful leave plan with your employee. Although these are merely recommendations and not procedural requirements, we strongly suggest using them for the following reasons:
- Retention of valued employees is a priority for MIT, and leave for new parents has become increasingly important in this context.
- Planning for an employee’s leave well ahead of time can prevent you and your team from feeling overwhelmed in their absence.
- Managers who are deliberate about providing a smooth leave experience for their employees can help improve productivity and morale, and reduce turnover costs.
Complete a leave calendar with your employee:
Leave calendars should include:
- MIT Maternity Leave dates (for birth mothers only): 8 weeks, starting from your employee’s anticipated due date.
- MIT Paid Parental Leave dates (for birth mothers AND new parents who did not give birth): 20 days, which may be taken consecutively or intermittently.
- If your employee plans to take 20 days of MIT Paid Parental Leave consecutively, specify the dates that leave will begin and end.
- If your employee plans to take 20 days of MIT Paid Parental Leave intermittently, specify the dates of leave and the increments at which leave will be taken.
- If your employee is initially unsure of how or when they would like to use MIT Paid Parental Leave, that’s okay! Ask them to think about it and schedule a date to discuss the topic again.
Review and complete the Workload Coverage Form (available below) with your employee:
As you complete this form, consider the following questions:
- Can your employee recommend another member of your team to take on their responsibilities?
- Would another member of your team benefit from taking on such responsibilities?
- If other members of your team cannot take on your employee’s responsibilities, can you temporarily hire someone to fill in?
- Can any of your employee’s responsibilities be put on hold during their leave?
Set communication boundaries with your employee:
As you discuss communication related to your employee’s leave, consider the following questions:
- How would your employee like to relay information regarding their upcoming leave to the rest of your team?
- How available would your employee like to be while on leave?
- Would your employee like to remain abreast of important work-related events or occurrences? If yes, what is their preferred method of communication (phone, email, etc.)?
- Does your employee plan to attend any meetings? If so, would they like to attend in-person or via conference call?
- Does your employee plan to attend social events, such as parties, group outings, etc.?
Stress that your employee should not feel pressure to keep abreast of work-related events or occurences, and is under no obligation to attend meetings or events.
Communicate support to your employee:
Below are a few ways you may consider showing support when your employee announces that they will become a new parent:
- State your willingness to work with them to create smooth transitions before and after leave.
- Communicate the ways in which your employee is a valued member of your team.
- Reinforce that going on leave will not adversely impact your employee’s career.
- In light of MIT’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, welcome all new parents equally—including employees who are adopting or fostering children, or having a baby through surrogacy.
- Share information regarding MIT Paid Leave for New Parents and helpful Resources for New Parents.
- Remind your employee that they can always contact the MIT Work-Life Center with questions regarding child care, lactation rooms, and other parenting-related needs.
- Reach out: If your employee has given you permission to do so, offer congratulations and provide work-related updates. If you feel comfortable, consider asking your team to contribute a gift for your employee and their new child.
- Respect boundaries: Remember, your employee is on leave (not working from home) and availability may differ from what they had originally anticipated.
- Keep your employee in mind: Update the Workload Coverage Form with notable developments related to your employee’s projects, and consider them when staffing upcoming projects.
- Confirm return date: Schedule a phone meeting a week or two prior to your employee’s scheduled return to confirm details regarding their reentry.
- Communicate continued support: Remind your employee about the various Resources for New Parents available at MIT, including child care-related benefits and breastfeeding support.
Plan and participate in “Welcome Back” activities for your employee:
Acclimating back to work after leave can be overwhelming—show support by planning “Welcome Back” activities for your employee’s first day in the office. Fun, non-work related activities will help smooth the transition. These activities may include any of the following:
- An informal meeting to catch up with your employee and view pictures of the baby or child.
- A team lunch for your employee.
- A “Welcome Back” care package for your employee.
Onboard your employee in phases:
If your employee has taken leave consecutively, there may have been organizational changes since they were last in the office. Instead of acquainting them with all these changes at once, take a phased approach:
- Review your employee’s Workload Coverage Form, which you have (hopefully) updated to include developments related to their projects (see “During Your Employee’s Leave”).
- Divide updates and related tasks into 3 (or more) sections, based on priority.
- Schedule 3 (or more) formal meetings with your employee over the course of 1-3 weeks, where you discuss updates and related tasks by priority.
- During each meeting, remember to reaffirm the value of your employee by stating how happy you are that they are back.
Thank your team:
When your employee returns to work after leave, the transition also affects the whole team. It’s important to show your team that you’re committed to cultivating a supportive environment for everyone during this process:
- Schedule a meeting with the team members who have taken on added responsibilities during your employee’s leave.
- Recognize your team’s efforts by verbalizing appreciation and if appropriate, providing professional development feedback.