Negotiating Family Leave into a Physician Employment Contract

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Paid leave has become almost expected of employers, as the U.S. has started making strides to catch up to other developed nations who offer workers extended periods of paid leave when adding children to their families.

But just because many physicians have come to expect it, does not mean it is a given. If you are planning to have children in the future, or are currently pregnant and searching for a job, then understanding an employer’s family leave policy is critical. Here are some tips for negotiating paid family leave into a physician employment contract.

1.  Find out what’s available

Before accepting any job offer and signing a contract, make sure you ask and fully understand an employer’s leave policies. If the hiring manager doesn’t have all the information, ask to speak to someone from human resources.

A lot of employers will have policies that state you are not eligible for paid family leave until a certain amount of time passes since your start date, such as a year. If you’re heading into a job interview already pregnant or know that you will likely have children within a year, this can be a deal-breaker.

Know what is covered for family leave under the laws of your state, and understand that it might not line up with what the employer is offering. Also know that short-term disability (STD) won’t cover you if you’re pregnant before you start a job. Additionally, STD doesn’t pay for all of your family leave and might not be your full salary. A person usually has to wait two weeks from the arrival of a child for STD to start, and many employers require acquired paid leave to be used during this time.

2.  Be educated and gauge the company culture

Just as you would negotiate your job salary, know what is available for others in your industry when you go into negotiations. Share any comparative information with your prospective employer to help build the case that not offering a sensible parental leave plan will put the company at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting top talent.

It’s important to bring up the conversation of paid parental leave during a contract negotiation so that you can get a feel for a company’s culture. If the hiring manager doesn’t want to discuss the topic or tries to brush it off for another time, that could be a clue that the company isn’t very understanding of family life. 

3.  Ask for what you want before you sign a contract

Many people may believe that employer policies are set in stone, so they will go along with whatever they are told, or otherwise pass on a good opportunity. Don’t be afraid of the negotiation process. Employers are willing to adjust their benefits for top employees.

Paid leave can be negotiated. A successful negotiation often depends upon the demand for the position. An employer with an abundance of interested people for a job is much less likely to negotiate than one that is having a difficult time filling a position. Additionally, physicians who are paid hourly prior to becoming a partner may be in a better position to negotiate paid leave.

The time to ask for paid family leave is before you sign a contract and become an employee. You may not have kids in your plan for the near future, but you still want to ensure you have adequate paid leave for when that time comes to be. It is far easier to negotiate paid leave before you onboard with a company than it is once you are already an employee. Make sure the paid parental leave policy is in writing before you sign an employment contract.

Cultural factors challenging paid leave

A significant issue facing the adoption of longer paid family leave is cultural acceptance. With women being viewed as the primary caretakers of children, men have traditionally been left out of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. But having children is an important time for both men and women who choose to have a family.

Women are also not promised paid leave for having children. Historically, women have been expected to return to work as soon as medically possible, or quit their jobs. Women can have successful roles as both mothers and employees and should request the appropriate amount of support from their employers. 

Look for employers who encourage both their female and male employees to take as much time as necessary for the arrival of their children, and offer a fair amount of paid leave to parents. Work will be there when they return. 

If you’re a physician searching for a new job and want to make sure your future employer has a paid family leave policy, our contract review services offer employment contracts to be reviewed by an attorney who can recommend changes or negotiate on your behalf to ensure your employee benefits are maximized. Contact us today to get started.

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