Maternity Leave Gimme

by admin on May 28, 2012

I work at a large state university which gives very generous leave allowances (at least by US standards). It is common when someone is very sick that someone will send out a blast over the old university list-serve (optional, by request subscription, not compulsory) which asks on behalf of the sick person for leave donations so the person does not lose pay. People often exceed their vacation leave accrual and it slushes over into their sick leave, and so many people have plenty to share. There was recently one for a cancer patient, sent out by a friend requesting donations. This is not uncommon and people are usually happy to give. In that particular case, the friend had to actually send out another email that asked us to stop responding with donations, they already had plenty.

Yesterday, however, I received this Gimmee email along with 700+ potential victims:

Hello all,

I am going on maternity leave soon, June 8th. I was hoping to be able to take the whole 12 weeks that is available to me through FMLA because we will have to put our baby in day care when I go back to work . Unfortunately I only have 8 weeks’ worth of sick & annual leave because I have been working at the university for a short period of time. I joined the sick leave pool as well, but I cannot use the time from the pool for 6 months since I am new to it. My husband and I do not have family in Tampa which is why we have to use daycare.

Even if it is just one hour, any sick leave donations would be greatly appreciated. All that needs to be done is to e-mail my HR Coordinator XXXXXXXXXX at XXXX@XXXXX.edu how many hours you would like to donate and CC your immediate supervisor.

Also, if you have any daycare recommendations in the University area that would be great!

Thank you so much,

XXXXXXXXX

Am I wrong to think this is a bit entitled to ask for your own sick leave donation? Not to mention I have never ever had anyone ask me (verbally or via email) to donate sick leave to any mothers which I actually do know in my department. I just feel like this is akin to someone asking for monetary donations because they’re having a baby or throwing their own baby shower. 0524-12

Fundamentally this is arranging charitable giving from others to oneself.   Which is begging.  There should be a social stigma placed on public begging for one’s own benefit so that true charity is reserved for those truly deserving of it at the instigation of others.

{ 78 comments… read them below or add one }

Margaret May 29, 2012 at 11:28 am

o_gal — disagree. Don’t you think it might also be possible that the reason family is mentioned is that she would feel more comfortable leaving her completely helpless infant with a loving relative than with a complete stranger?

As I said before, I would be inclined to support the mom to be. I’m not saying she would be my number one priority if there were more people needing/wanting sick leave than available. However, OP points out that sometimes they have to request that leave donations be STOPPED because there has been too much donated. It does not sound as if scarcity of leave is an issue at this work place.

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siamesecat 2965 May 29, 2012 at 11:46 am

I agree with those who say its different than suddenly coming down with a serious illness, i.e. cancer. In that case, you certainly don’t want or plan for it, and its not anything you can control. So if my company did this, I wouldn’t have any problem donating any of my time to someone who needed it to recover from such an illness.

Someone who’s pregnant, and simply doesn’t want to come back to work as soon as she has too, no, I wouldn’t be as inclined to give up my time. While it may be nice to stay home for additional weeks after the birth of a child, its not mandatory, and if its a normal pregnancy, the mother should’t have any lingering health issues. and if there are complications, or something that necessiate the mother needed extra time, once that becomes evident, then I can see such a request being made. But a premptive strike, asking for extra time in advance doesn’t sit well with me at all.

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Hemi May 29, 2012 at 11:48 am

I can see both sides of this situation. Also, I like @Cat’s ideal that he husband take some time off to care for the child if the mother has not accrued enough time to cover what she *wants* to take off.

To @whatever- what country do you reside in? You get 2 years off, the state pays you during that time and then you get your job back? Wow- that is super maternity leave. Very awesome.

I have never heard of “sharing” or “donating” leave time before this post. It sounds like a nice ideal, if it doesn’t get abused. Like other commentors, I believe someone should take the MTB aside and explain things to her. She may honestly not understand the way things work. Of course she could just really be a maternity leave gimme pig. I think this would be a case where HR should handle the request.

Where I work, you get 3 paid sick days, 2 paid personal days and 2 weeks of paid vacation per year (at least the hourly employees do; salaried employees get all kinds of “comp” time, even when they do not really earn it but that’s another post). Personal & vacation time is “use it or lost it” but sick time can accrue. With only 3 days per year, most people use it by the end of the year. As we all know, really nasty flu can take you out for weeks or there could always be an unforeseen medical emergency, etc.

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Calli Arcale May 29, 2012 at 11:58 am

We’ve had e-mails go out, usually from managers or secretaries, suggesting PTO donations for people in crises. Never for maternity leave, as our company offers 100% pay for six weeks for the mom with a normal delivery, eight weeks for c-section, and more if a doctor certifies that it is needed. (Dads aren’t so lucky, and have to use their PTO.) But we did have one dad recently who they solicited funds for. His new baby had been born extremely premature, the mom was ill, there were two older kids to care for, and everybody was in a crisis. That’s the sort of extraordinary circumstance where it’s helpful. (And yes, he did then have to send out another e-mail himself asking people to stop, because he had plenty now! I have awesome coworkers, very generous.)

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Another Laura May 29, 2012 at 11:59 am

Admin said “I would disagree that babies “come along unexpectedly”. While the news of being pregnant can be unexpected, there are at least six months to prepare for the inevitable birth.”

I have friends who found out they were expecting, one month (to the day) before their full-term baby was born. And TLC had a whole show dedicated to babies whose arrival announced that the mom was great with child (“I didn’t know I was pregnant” http://tlc.discovery.com/videos/i-didnt-know-i-was-pregnant/). While these are rare cases, they do happen-though probably not in the case of the mom-to-be in OP.

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Cami May 29, 2012 at 12:57 pm

It doesn’t bother me at all. It may be that I’m conditioned to expect the recipient to ask for him/herself because the only place I’ve worked that allowed staff to gift each other with sick time REQUIRED that the recipient ask for it.

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Sue May 29, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I find it really offensive that someone has the gall to request others to subsidize their reproductive choices and I would be offended if someone asked me to donate my precious time off under these conditions. If you are mature enough to have a child you should be mature enough to figure out how to balance your available time off like a responsible adult. Generally when pregnant one has MONTHS to get their affairs in order, it’s not like, SURPRISE! one day a baby just magically appears in the crib catching everyone off guard.

I think this sort of thing needs to be kept completely out of the workplace. The only condition where one should be able to ask for donations of time in the workplace is when someone has a sudden unforeseen catastrophic medical situation.

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Anison May 29, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I’m astounded at the number of “Well she should have thought of this earlier, babies are planned” comments. Was the mother-to-be in question supposed to turn down a job offer (for a job that is likely well-paid and with good benefits) in this economy simply because she was pregnant? She could easily have lost her previous job, spent some time job hunting, and landed this position all during the nine-month term of this pregnancy. How was she supposed to plan for that? Life has a way of conspiring quite effectively to throw even the most carefully-laid plans into chaos, leaving us to scramble for solutions. Her request was politely phrased, and I see no problem with it.

As to the person who took offense at her mention of not having any family in the area and therefore being dependent on daycare–had she not mentioned that, I guarantee these comments would be inundated with suggestions that she reach out to family members for assistance instead.

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Katje May 29, 2012 at 3:48 pm

That sounds entitled to me. I can understand something sudden like say cancer or some other serious illness with the person and/or family members. But to ASK for donations seems nothing short of a gimme pig.

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grumpy_otter May 29, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I’m with Cami–the letter sounded humble, appreciative in advance, and presented a perfectly reasonable explanation. I don’t know what company policy about this type of email is–but perhaps she asked HR prior to sending it and this is what they told her?

For some reason, this type of asking doesn’t make my hair stand on end like gimme-pig brides.

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MelShoe May 30, 2012 at 5:47 am

To me this sort of thing is unheard of – but then again I get 20 days personal/sick leave, 20 days annual leave a year and up to 2 years off if I have a baby (guaranteed to get my or an equivalent job back) with the equivalent of 12 months wages paid. I think the conditions other posters have outlined are absolutely dreadful! I’ve also been aware of situations where people who are seriously ill are given extended paid leave.. when a senior manager at our company had a heart attack and was in intensive care his salary was paid until three months after he passed away. I’m so sorry that so many people have to struggle and juggle such poor entitlements and am grateful for what I have access to

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Angel May 30, 2012 at 9:24 am

Ok, so the woman going out on maternity leave is asking for people to donate vacation days to her so she can have extra time at home with the baby? 8 weeks is not enough? Maybe it will not be enough but she has no way of knowing that. I think that if I were her, I would wait until the baby comes before I make the determination. I was back to work within about 8 weeks. By then I was dying to get up and out to see people. And I had a c-section with both kids. If she has a c-section she can apply for disability and they will pay you a percentage of your salary for 6 weeks. At least in my state. So there are other options aside from fleecing your coworkers. And if she has a vaginal delivery, she should be up and around in 6 weeks or less. I can see maybe if she just wants to be home with the baby, and that’s fine–but don’t ask your coworkers to finance that!

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Shu May 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm

So glad I get a year with pay :S

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Cat Whisperer May 30, 2012 at 8:35 pm

It must be nice to work for a place where you can assign excess sick leave/vacation to someone else.

*sigh*

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whatever May 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm

@Hemi: i live in Austria (Europe). yes, it’s pretty awesome! Birth rates have been going down for decades and our social system (rent, healthcare etc) depends on a rather constant age distribution, so the government is trying to make getting kids as attractive as possible.

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Ginya May 31, 2012 at 2:27 pm

I have to say I’m a bit disappointed in the boards on this one. The impression I get from all of this is if you need help you can’t ask for it unless someone does it on your behalf, so no help for you or your baby too bad so sad. However if a friend would have asked in her stead this would all be completely sanctioned, are you kidding?

This woman admits humbly to not having the resources or time saved for a sufficient length of maternity leave (which here in the US is deplorable anyway) since their family isn’t available and she’s been with the company for a short time. We have no idea what circumstances brought her to this job, yes ideally you can plan a baby but obviously circumstances didn’t play out that way. I think it’s incredibly awful to say since she couldn’t adequately plan ahead she doesn’t deserve it, has no one ever had an unplanned pregnancy? People need help occasionally and I think this time etiquette is getting in the way of common sense.

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Tom May 31, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Yes, there is a difference between the situations.

But the woman’s email is polite, not demanding, and is a legitimate concern. She’s not telling anyone that her baby is more important than someone’s cancer, as others here have indicated. She’s *asking* for something she things would be good for her family and baby. If you want to help someone else instead, go for it. She doesn’t seem to be denigrating you if you make that choice.

Consider the world of non-profits. There are charities that ask for your money so they can build a playground in a poor neighborhood. Do we say “There are charities who need money to FIGHT CANCER! How dare they say a playground is as important as cancer!?”?

No. There are charities who fight cancer, and charities who deal with other, admittedly, less life and death issues. It is not rude for the latter charities to ask for your money just because there are cancer charities out there. Similarly, it is not rude for this women to ask for time for her baby just because there are sick people out there.

Different situations, yes. But simply being different does not make one of them wrong.

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Nancy May 31, 2012 at 6:02 pm

I think it sends a somewhat dangerous precedent. This woman is new to the office, and yes, working at the university can totally suck in your first few months because you haven’t accrued much vacation. I think politically, it would have been much wiser for someone else on her team to make the request on her behalf. I also think that this could result in a lot of hurt feelings from other mothers in the office/university. I’m sure there’s some mom out there who got this request and would have LIKED more time with her baby, but had to come back when her leave was up because, well, she had to. You have to do it for everyone. Yes, babies are important, and yes, we should be getting more maternity leave in the U.S., but honestly, if every person who had a baby made this request, they would run out of donated vacation/sick days in a real hurry. I also think that the University is dumb for allowing individual employees to make these requests. These really should be coming from an HR person or someone with some authority.

I think that as far as workplace politics, she kind of stepped in it.

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anonymous June 1, 2012 at 10:38 pm

I agree that it’s gauche to ask for things like this yourself – there’s a reason why generally someone does it for you, on their own impulse to help: because otherwise it is begging.

But.

First, babies are not always planned.

And second, having a baby is quite physically draining, and while I am all in favor of working while raising kids (or staying home – to each her own – or having Dad stay home), it is perfectly reasonable to want to take a big chunk of time off, and unfortunately, that’s not an option for many mothers. I don’t want to get too political, so I’ll just say that, hey, is six weeks really enough? Is no leave at all (which some expecting mothers are faced with) acceptable? Some people feel it is. I happen to feel it’s not, and that maternity leave should be paid and guaranteed, and more than just a few weeks. Paternity leave, too, although maybe not for as long.

So…I do not begrudge this mother for wanting more than 8 weeks off.

Finally, hey, not all babies are planned. I wasn’t. My parents both had to quit grad school to raise me (couldn’t afford a baby AND being a student). Even within marriage not all babies are planned…it’s not really fair to say she could have planned ahead for this, and nine months, when you are looking to take so much time off work, is not a lot of time to get ready. I often take trips where I travel for six weeks or more (I have a job that makes this possible) and I need more than 9 months to plan such a trip! If it takes me a year to plan seven weeks in Turkey in terms of leave and financing (which I did), then I think an expecting mother could be cut some slack on this.

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Candra June 2, 2012 at 10:09 am

I agree with Anison and Ginya. We don’t know how difficult her situation is right now, and the wording of the email wasn’t rude. “Ya’ll” are getting pretty fired up over a REQUEST. Not a demand- it was a request.

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clairedelune June 4, 2012 at 5:21 pm

I’m not crazy about the “begging” aspect of this, but it also highlights the shamefully stingy maternity leave policies we have in the U.S.–if I’m reading this correctly, the University doesn’t provide any paid maternity leave at all, and the email-blaster is having to use her accrued vacation and sick days in order to draw any paycheck at all during her family leave. She would be getting 12 weeks unpaid only because FMLA legally mandates that period. I would not call this particularly “generous” on the part of the employer.

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Lucy June 4, 2012 at 8:11 pm

I must be in the minority here, because I don’t see anything wrong with this woman’s request. At my job we have to do everything ourselves, or nothing gets done, paperwork is “lost” and no one cares. Perhaps she had legitimate medical issues she’s trying to prepare for? Perhaps she has a history of post partem and is anticipating needing more leave than her workplace allows. She’s in no way obligated to disclose that information, and all she for was ask politely if anyone had any time they’d be willing to donate. No one is obligated to give her any time, nor offer any explanation, so what harm is there in asking?

I don’t see it as a gimme-pig situation, but more like a woman who is preparing for a major life event and is trying to be responsible for complications by anticipating possible future needs. At my workplace, it’s necessary to do just that, and it you expect anyone to put the word out for you or act on your behalf, you’ll be waiting a long time. Personally, if I received such an email, I’d either donate an hour or ignore it.

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Gracie C. June 7, 2012 at 10:03 am

Interesting discussion. We have a similar program at my work, but like others have said the request go through HR in an official capacity and do not come from individuals. I’m not sure if anyone has ever used the bank for maternity leave, but it wouldn’t bother me if they did. As it happens, our system doesn’t specify the why. An email will go around stating that a sick leave bank has been set up for s0-and-so and if you’d like to donate, please contact HR.

Meanwhile, for those of you saying people CHOOSE pregnancy – well, yes that is true, but illness isn’t always through no fault of the patient. If a guy in the office has a heart attack and needs extended leave are you looking to see if it’s cause he ate McDonald’s 3 meals a day, every day? Or when that co-worker gets lung cancer – are you checking to make sure they are not a smoker? Many illnesses, while not chosen, are certainly helped on by the behavior of the person getting the illness. I’m not saying they are getting what they deserve – diseases are horrible and I wouldn’t wish them on anyway – but it’s not as cut and dry to say that pregnancy is a choice and illness is not. So, would you be determining your donation based on that?

Personally – since I work for a huge employer I base my donation decisions on whether or not I know the person, as we get many and I can’t donate to them all. In the grand scheme of things, I’d not have a problem with such a request.

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justme June 15, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Eh… I wouldn’t give up my time, but I don’t begrudge her for asking. My motto is always “Can’t hurt to ask, the worst that can happen is they say no”. She asked over an email list-serv that other people use for similar purposes. She didn’t send the request over a channel that was inappropriate for that type of email, and she didn’t go around asking personally (which may have made people feel guilty if they said no). Not everyone (myself, for one) would feel comfortable making such a request, but I don’t think there’s a social rule against it.

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erica September 10, 2012 at 12:01 am

MelShoe…I don’t know where you work but I want to work there!

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Missy November 14, 2012 at 4:09 am

Gimme, gimme, gimme. Vulgar, vulgar, VULGAR. Fund my maternity leave, NO WAY!

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