“Please accept my plea.”
This is what a then-26-year-old woman named Gwen Salmo wrote in a letter to her boss back in 1988, asking for workplace flexibility after the birth of her first daughter, Lauren.
At the time, Salmo was an assistant merchandiser at Mitzi International, a budget handbag company. She was asking to spend one day per week shopping (part of her work duties) closer to home in the suburbs rather than commuting into the city so she could spend time with her baby and work fewer hours.
“Even if I do not shop, I would like that day home or I would come in the office with Lauren so she can be brought up by myself and not just the babysitter,” Salmo wrote.
Advocating for yourself at work is clearly nothing new. But one year after the Women’s March, New York parents have a new law to make their lives a little easier. New York State Paid Family Leave took effect on January 1, 2018 and guarantees covered workers up to eight weeks of paid time off to bond with a new child. By 2021, this will increase to 12 weeks.
Dina Bakst, co-founder and co-president of A Better Balance, a legal advocacy organization dedicated to supporting working families, is thrilled with the new policy.
“Legislative fixes have made a huge difference for women here in New York,” said Bakst. “It’s important that women know they have these strong protections so they stay healthy and on the job.”
Salmo did get the flexibility she asked for. The new policy means pregnant women and new moms should no longer have to plead to get reasonable accommodations at work.
This week, A Better Balance released a comprehensive guide with information on laws and resources relevant to working women, moms-to-be and moms. Here’s what you need to know if you’re pregnant, planning to take leave, or pumping.
If You’re Pregnant
When do I need to tell my employer I’m pregnant?
There’s no legally mandated deadline. But you do need to request time off for childbirth 30 days in advance. If you need time off because you have an illness or complications from pregnancy, you’ll need to share the news earlier. Do keep in mind that your boss — and colleagues — would probably appreciate a heads up for planning purposes.
What should I do to prepare for the conversation?
First, you should find out the details about your company’s parental leave policy. Then, draft a plan for how you’re going to prepare for leave and who can cover your responsibilities while you are out. It’s a good idea to take notes during your conversation with your manager and send him or her a recap summarizing your discussion so you’re both clear on next steps. It is illegal to fire or penalize you for being pregnant.
What if I need special accommodations during pregnancy?
Tell your manager about the changes you need and be proactive with a plan for how you can make it work. This could mean asking another colleague in advance for help, depending on your circumstances. Again, it’s a good idea to send an email recap of your conversation to confirm you’re both on the same page.
If You’re Planning To Take Leave
There are two types of family leave in New York State: paid leave, under New York State Paid Family Leave, and unpaid leave, under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, commonly referred to as FMLA.
How much leave can I take? Will I still get paid?
Under New York law, this year, you can take up to eight paid weeks of family leave and you’ll receive half of your average weekly pay, up to about $650 per week. The amount of time off and pay you’ll receive increase each year until 2021.
The federal law allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to care for a new child.
The laws have different eligibility requirements, so be sure to check with your HR department on which policies apply to you specifically.
Do they have to keep my job for me while I’m out?
Yes, your employer must allow you to return to either the same job or a comparable one. You also get to keep your healthcare benefits.
If You’re Breastfeeding
If you know you’re planning to breastfeed and your office doesn’t already have a space to pump, let your employer know before you go out on leave so they can plan ahead.
Can I take time out of my workday to pump?
Yes. In New York your employer must let you take a 20-minute break once every three hours to express milk.
Do I have to pump in the bathroom?
No. You are entitled to a clean, private space that is not a bathroom.
How long can I continue to pump?
You can pump at work for up to three years after your baby is born.
This post originally appeared in Women@Forbes, where Alexandra Dickinson is a contributor. She writes about how to use a negotiation mindset to achieve your goals.