Have you ever considered not returning to work after maternity leave, either so you can stay home with your little(s) for a while, or get a new job with better hours or logistics (like an easier commute)? We’ve talked about how to resign gracefully in general, offered SAHM career tips, as well as pondered how to negotiate maternity leave ahead of time, and discussed moms who’ve taken a career break from work — but not specifically about quitting right after maternity leave. How can you quit without burning bridges or cheating your own family out of maternity leave benefits? Reader M asks:
I have a question about potentially not returning to work post-maternity leave. I have been thinking about transitioning to another law firm that is much, much closer to home and that has significantly less travel (I have an hour commute each way and will have two children under the age of 15 months once this one is born). The other firm is open to my coming on board when I’m done with maternity leave. My question is when would you tell your current workplace that you are moving on?
We had an associate come back from a very extended leave and quit her first week back and it left a bad taste in the partner’s mouths. I don’t want to burn bridges, but I also don’t want to hurt my benefits while on leave (I’m in California and will be receiving a mixture of disability pay and Family Bonding pay — my firm does not offer any paid maternity leave). When would you advise giving notice?
Oooof. Tough question, and I can’t wait to hear what readers say. Because every company’s policy is different, as are the state laws surrounding disability and maternity leave, it’s kind of difficult to say in general — but these would be my considerations:
First, in general, don’t quit until you’ve got another job. If this other job is a maybe thing, don’t quit your current job — unless you are absolutely, definitely sure that no matter what, you will not go back to your first job.
Know your rights at your current firm and under state law, including your company’s handbook. As The Balance notes, “[a]t some companies, if you take maternity leave and then do not return, you will be responsible for paying for your health insurance and other benefits, such as disability pay, used during your leave.”
On the “how will my firm take this?” question, consider whether there’s any vesting period for employees to use disability pay or maternity leave. If you can only take maternity leave after you’ve been at the firm for six months, that implies to me that the firm views it as an earned benefit for prior performance, versus a promise of future performance. (Similarly, with the California law at issue, they note that you have to have paid into the state fund over a certain number of paychecks — I’d look into whether or not you can use the Family Bonding pay even if you’re attached to a brand new employer.)
Here, you note that a previous employee quit after one week back and that left a bad taste in people’s mouths — but was that because she wasn’t there to transition someone new? They felt like she had other tasks that should have been offloaded earlier? You have to consider the personalities at play with her, as well as the specifics of her situation.
Know the maternity leave policy at the new firm. During the interview process for the second job, make sure you know what the maternity leave policy is, as well as the disability pay — if possible, see if you can negotiate a better maternity leave for yourself, as discussed in this old Corporette post (tons of great comments in there, too).
You might want to contact an employment attorney if you think this is going to turn acrimonious — lawyers are experts in these things for reasons. Just touching base with someone and having a brief conversation now could save you a world of problems later.
Readers, what would your advice be to Reader M in terms of what to consider? Have any of you quit a job right after maternity leave (or seriously considered not returning after maternity leave), only to go to a new job immediately after? Have you been on the other side of things, and been “burned” by an employee who quit right after maternity leave? Do tell…
Psst: We’ve also talked about how to prepare at work for maternity leave, returning to work after maternity leave, staying connected to the office during maternity leave, maternity leave projects, and the ideal maternity leave.