Maternity leave planning for women physicians is important work.
Women bring immense value to medicine (and every field for that matter), and they deserve a financial team in their corner helping them navigate the complex issues concerning maternity leave planning.
A Vestia, we’re dedicated to helping our women physicians shine, equipping them with the support they need to find success and the confidence to advocate for themselves and their incredible worth.
How can women physicians create a maternity leave plan that works for them? Start by evaluating these five steps.
1. Know Your Company Benefits
Women physicians may face unique financial (and personal) challenges, opportunities, and decisions throughout their careers. These elements can bring about important financial planning considerations, starting with company benefits.
First, as with most financial tasks—we believe the earlier you can start to build a plan, the better. Ideally, we’d assist our clients before they sign a contract, whether it’s their first medical gig or a strategic move up the ladder.
If starting a family is on your mind or part of your future goals, it’s important to understand your company’s maternity leave policy—it’s often not as straightforward as you may think!
You may find that some hospitals have separate maternity leave policies that layout:
- How much leave is available.
- If you have to work at the facility for a set time before you qualify for those benefits.
- Stipulations on paying back the leave if you don’t stay at the facility for a set time.
In lieu of a formal maternity leave policy, some institutions offer short-term disability insurance that you can leverage in some capacity for paid maternity leave (though that’s not always the case). If you plan to rely on short-term disability insurance, watch out for potential waiting periods.
There’s also the possibility that your employer doesn’t offer paid leave at all or that you may owe money if you take an extended leave (more on that in a minute!).
Maternity Leave On Her Schedule: A Case Study
We served a client who was pregnant and about to take a new job. The company told her that she was eligible for leave on the “first month following 90 days of service.” We asked for a copy of the benefits as obtaining proper leave was one of our client’s top priorities.
The official document read “eligible after 90 days of service.” After a call with the HR department, we officially confirmed our client’s maternity leave right after her 90 days (not the month following—technicalities really matter)!
This clarification ended up being the difference between her having a paid vs. unpaid maternity leave. It’s critical to have a trusted partner in your corner crossing the “t”s and dotting the “i”s on this crucial and defining information.
2. Understand Your Pay Structure
Remember how we said it’s possible you could owe money to your employer if you take maternity leave?
Let’s uncover what that’s all about.
Physicians may encounter different compensation structures throughout their careers, and it’s not uncommon to be on a productivity-based compensation plan (where your output ties directly to your paycheck). Output could mean various things like the types of procedures you perform, how many patients you see, etc. This method can get complex; hence it’s vital to know the ins and outs.
So, if you’re out on leave for 12 weeks, not racking up clinical hours, surgery time, or other patient care throughout that period, it’s essential to ask:
- Does taking leave make you ineligible for productivity pay?
- Will you not reach a minimum Relative Value Unit (RVU, a critical component in determining a physician’s pay) threshold since you only worked 9 out of 12 months?
- Could the inability to reach that threshold jeopardize your salary and allow your employer to cut your payments?
- If you’re in private practice, will you still owe overhead fees while on leave?
Keep Your Hard-Earned Salary In Tact: A Case Study
Facing potential salary cuts due to maternity leave is not an uncommon battle for women physicians to face.
We helped a client navigate this process and protect her salary by averaging her monthly productivity over nine months. We used that number as a benchmark for her following year’s salary.
However, she was pumping after she returned to work and didn’t factor in her reduced clinical hours as a result.
We continued to advocate for her and retain her salary even if she didn’t meet minimum clinic volumes. Our team at Vestia has dedicated professionals who understand and are passionate about these unique circumstances.
The bottom line? We’ll advocate for you and give you the tools and confidence to advocate for yourself, too.
3. Negotiate Your Maternity Leave Upfront
Sometimes the fine print isn’t what you hoped it would be, and you need to negotiate your contract. Negotiating is an opportunity to discuss your worth and the unique skills and talent you bring to the organization.
When it comes down to it, we have a couple of our best practices for you.
We see some of the best results from contract negotiations when the conversation begins with physicians asking thoughtful questions. It may seem obvious—of course, you need to ask questions—but when you start this way, it sets the tone for the group. Not immediately going down a list of achievements and data-packed statements creates a more open, discussion-based environment, which is precisely what you need in a contract negotiation.
Another best practice is active listening. Being in an intimidating environment, if you can take the opportunity to sit back and listen, you may find that the conversation steers your way. This approach exudes more confidence than the traditional ‘guns blazing’ scenario.
The key to a successful contract negotiation is to ask questions without making demands.
4. Consider Risk Management Measures
Risk management is often a high priority for our women physicians. This priority becomes even more critical in the context of maternity planning. In general, try to acquire these two policies before you get pregnant:
- Life insurance
- Disability insurance
Obtaining these policies before you get pregnant can have a significant impact on whether or not you’re eligible for the payout.
Many insurance companies will cover pregnancy-related complications if the recipient is covered before they get pregnant. If you get coverage after becoming pregnant, there’s often a pregnancy exclusion if something happens due to childbirth (disability or death).
5. Advocate For Yourself; You’re Worth It
Maternity leave conversations can be complex, and in some instances, uncomfortable. We’ve had clients who hadn’t received a warm reception when they engaged their prospective employer in these types of conversations.
To that, we’ll say we believe you should trust your gut and don’t brush off a feeling.
If the people you will spend so much time working with aren’t receptive to the things that are most important to you, it may not be as great of a fit as you’d like or deserve.
As we’ve said throughout this post, advocating for yourself is vital in medicine. Doing so is part of living out our core value, Wealth that Matters.
What To Expect If You’re Expecting
Pregnancy is a time of significant change, challenge, and excitement, and you shouldn’t have to navigate the financial hurdles alone.
That’s why we’re here!
At Vestia, we walk our women physicians through the contract negotiation process and work to give them the tools they need to navigate possible financial roadblocks and keep themselves on a strong financial journey.
We love helping women physicians do incredible work in their white coats and beyond. It’s a joy doing our part to help build the future for women in medicine.
We are working to change the narrative of women physicians everywhere. Let us know how we can help—get in touch with our team here.
Investment advisory services offered through Vestia Personal Wealth Advisors, Vestia Retirement Plan Consultants, and Vestia Advisors, LLC. Securities offered through Ausdal Financial Partners, Inc., 5187 Utica Ridge Rd, Davenport, IA. 52807 (563)326-2064. Member FINRA/SIPC. Vestia Personal Wealth Advisors, Vestia Retirement Plan Consultants, Vestia Advisors, LLC, and Ausdal Financial Partners, Inc. are independently owned and operated.
This material is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal or tax advice and is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified attorney or tax advisor. This information is not an offer or a solicitation to buy or sell securities. The information contained may have been compiled from third-party sources and is believed to be reliable.