Time to Talk Turkey
So how do you negotiate with your employer? The best approach for most people is to come up with a plan that involves the least interruption at work. Emphasize to your bosses that you want to continue working through treatments or adoption arrangements, but need some modest accommodations to make it work. Depending on the nature of your workplace, you may want to talk things over with your boss or present her with a well-researched, well-thought-out, written proposal.
That doesn’t mean it will be easy. Susan DiRosa, the director of nursing for a children’s center not covered by FMLA, was successful in getting her bosses to approve a work-from-home and reduced-hours arrangement for six months so she could bond with her adopted infant, Devin. “It took a lot of negotiating,” concedes DiRosa.
At the other extreme, Beth Frank, a former elementary school teacher in Maryland, says, “My school was incredibly understanding for the year or so that I was undergoing [fertility] treatment.” Frank, now the mother of 13-month-old twins, Lauren and Matthew, continues, “Thankfully, I worked with many people who understood what I was going through and covered my classes when I was running late or had to leave early for appointments.”
Too many people struggle privately, says Harriet Rovner-Ferguson, C.S.W., a New York psychotherapist who counsels couples with fertility issues and is the co-author of Experiencing Infertility (W.W. Norton, 2000). “Your boss and co-workers likely know someone else who has gone through something similar. My advice is to find somebody at work who understands.”
“The key is getting employers to recognize the prevalence of infertility and adoption,” agrees Hofstra’s Grossman. “They should accommodate the needs because it makes for a happier, more productive workforce.”
Make a Plan
Before you talk to your boss, you should:
1. Do Your Research
Look over your company's employee benefits, then talk to someone in human resources. You may discover that your company already has a policy for fertility- and adoption-related leaves.
2. Check the Policy
If you work for a small company, check whether your state has a comparable policy to the federal FMLA that applies to smaller-size workplaces. Some do.
3. Talk it Out
Talk to co-workers about special arrangements they worked out. This will indicate if it's a "family-friendly" workplace. The company may have a history of allowing reduced work hours, flex-time, or part-time.
4. Size up Other Companies
Talk to people outside your company to assess what other, similar-size employers offer their workers. You may get your employer to consider new options, but don't pin your hopes on changing company policy.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2006 issue of Conceive Magazine.
Negotiating Time Off for Fertility Treatments and Adoption|
Time to Talk Turkey
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