In the United States, some of the most important benefits that women need are left to the employer to offer. Through my transition from Corporate America to a small business, I’ve learned a few lessons on the importance of company benefits working moms need.
On average, 30% of your total compensation package is made up of your employer-sponsored benefits. This is no small number to ignore.
Before we dig into each benefit, keep in mind that the chances of getting everything I talk about is probably not realistic. My recommendation is to make a list of your “non-negotiables” and write them down. Keep them with you as guidance for your negotiations. At the end, I talk about the list of my non-negotiables that I had before I would agree to quit my corporate job.
These benefits will focus primarily on benefits for working moms in the United States, but some of these items may be useful to women in other parts of the world as well.
#1 Medical insurance
- Do they offer high deductible and low deductible plans?
- How much are the premiums?
- Do they offer an FSA or HSA? Here is a good article that explains the difference: My Employer Offers Both HSA and FSA. What’s the Difference, and Which Should I Use?
#2 Dental insurance
- Does the company offer dental insurance?
- Do they pay part of the premiums?
#3 Vision insurance
- This type of insurance is more rare, if its important to you and the company does not offer it, make sure you have vision benefits included in your medical plan.
#4 Retirement 401k offering
- Does the company match your contribution?
- What is the vested period?
#5 Maternity leave
- Does the company have to comply with FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act)? Remember not all companies need to follow FMLA and job protect you for 12 weeks. Check out the United States Department of Labor’s fact sheet on FMLA.
- Does your state offer additional protections outside of FMLA?
- There is no federal law that guarantees pay for maternity leave. A few states have funds set up, such as California, that offer a portion of your pay. Some companies will pay maternity leave through a short-term disability policy. Be sure to check on the specifics.
- Does the company understand the long-term benefits to the mother and child? If they don’t that is a huge red flag that this might not be the right place for you.
#6 Short and Long Term Disability
- Does the company have a short and long term disability policy in place? What does it cover?
#7 Life Insurance
- This option gets over looked frequently. I had a personal experience with this when my little sister lost her husband at a young age which made me very aware of the real consequences of ignoring this important benefit. If you have children and they depend on your income, this is a must have. You can get life insurance outside of your employer, so this is not necessarily a deal breaker, but something you need to be aware of.
This section is more universal and applies to a lot of women throughout the world.
#1 Nursing accommodations
- By law, in the United States, employers have to provide break time and a private area to nurse. Check out the fact sheet from the United States Department of Labor on what your rights are.
- Unfortunately, not all employers offer the best accommodations so if nursing is important to you, here are some additional items to consider:
- Is the pumping area sanitary?
- Is there comfortable seating?
- Can you lock others out while pumping?
- Do they offer cleaning supplies such as soap and a sink so that you do not have to use the bathroom to clean your pump?
- Do they offer an independent freezer for breastmilk? I’m sorry but a shared fridge with your coworkers food is not acceptable.
# 2 Flexible work schedules
- Does the company allow you to work a flexible work schedule? This can include:
- Work from home days.
- Flexible hours, you make your own schedule.
- Reduced work hours.
- The ability to work from home when your child is sick (without judgment).
#3 Paid time off
- Does the company have a generous time off policy?
- This could easily be included in the monetary benefits section but I think the true value of paid time off is the flexibility and work/life balance that it provides. It is common in many industries to give very little time off in the first few years.
- This is one of the easiest benefits to negotiate when switching companies. Companies would rather compensate with more time off than have to increase your salary. Use this to your advantage!
- Does the company offer daycare subsidies?
- Do they offer a daycare FSA option?
- Do they have onsite daycare?
- Do they offer backup daycare options?
- Are they understanding to daycare issues?
- What are the travel requirements for the job?
- Are they willing to be flexible about when you travel and how long you are gone?
- Some companies now offer working moms to travel with a nanny in the first year of their child’s life, while extremely rare, it is something to be aware of.
- Less travel can be part of your negotiation. In many industries, travel is necessary to continue growing your career. Some employers may be willing to work with you on the amount of travel you have to do while your kids are young.
#6 Return to work program for new moms
- Does the company offer a return to work program for new moms? One of the worst experiences I had in my corporate career was coming back to work after having my daughter. No one prepared or even hinted at how difficult it would be.
- My good friend Elaine offers amazing resources for this over at Thrive Momma. She works with businesses to provide valuable coaching for new moms coming back to work. She also has a wealth of resources over on her site so make sure to go check her out!
My Non-Negotiable List
As I mentioned earlier, I made a list of my own non-negotiables before I’d consider quitting my corporate job of over 10 years. This is my list.
- 12 weeks guaranteed maternity leave at 100% pay. My feeling around this is that if I am going to make a career leap then maternity leave had to be better than what I was currently receiving. I was getting 12 weeks guaranteed job protection (thanks to FMLA- which FMLA would not cover me in my new job) and 6 weeks of pay at 66.5% for vaginal delivery or 66.5% for 8 weeks with a c-section.
- Flexible work schedule. I refuse to trade out one rigid schedule for another. The ability to plan my own day and work when it is most beneficial for my life is important to me. This does not mean that I don’t put the needs of the company at the top of the list. This means that I will be allowed to balance my work and home life so that it serves both needs. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Time in a seat does not equal productivity.
- At least two days, guaranteed, work from home. In my new job, I am 100% remote because my company is based out of California and there is no office in my hometown. I was willing to consider some office days but a minimum of two was something I would not waiver on.
- Paid time off, I would not take less than 4 weeks of paid time off. Based on my experience level, I placed a high value on this benefit.
A few things to note that are specific to my situation. My husband and I had decided that all medical, dental, vision, and FSA or HSA benefits would remain with him. This would allow us to stay to nimble in case I ever decided to start my own business or if we ever ran into a future situation with having more children that required me to opt-out of the workforce for a while. I can’t imagine what circumstance that would be except for very special circumstances like a sick child but it was still important to us that my job not be tied to those benefits. I know this is not possible for everyone, so I highly encourage all working moms to consider these benefits on their non-negotiable list if they are not in a situation to rely on a significant other’s benefits.
Additional Resources and Reading
There was a lot of information in this article to read and digest. I don’t want to overwhelm you so I will be posting a follow up about how to negotiate these company benefits, understanding what your non-negotiables are and information on a critical piece of legislation that is happening on the federal level called the FAMILY Act.
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