According to the latest NAILS Big Book, approximately 20% of working nail technicians do not have medical insurance, and approximately 25% classify themselves as either booth renters or independent contractors, meaning they do not fall under state and federal mandates for re-employment.
This can put nail technicians in a tight spot when expecting a baby. Even established nail techs with full books will be forced to take time away from their money-earning business and may have a difficult time receiving any disability coverage while they are out. A tech might also have to deal with her job (or booth if you are a renter) being replaced while she is out. And if you are not classified as an employee, there’s not much you can do about it.
According to the Family and Medical Leave Act, amended in January 2008, employees of a company are guaranteed up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave during any 12-month period for the birth of a child, adoption, care of an immediate family member with a serious health condition, and care of one’s own serious health condition. This is a federally mandated act that applies across state lines.
One of the catches to this is you are not entitled to any more rights than you would be if you were still working (for instance you could still be the victim of a budget-induced layoff), but the idea is that a recognized employee can’t be terminated solely because of her family leave. You can see more specifics on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website, www.dol.gov/compliance/laws/comp-fmla.htm.
There are also accompanying pregnancy leave rights for different states — with different coverage for each (some offer no additional coverage). The website www.nationalpartnership.org has an information-packed brochure addressing the laws in each state.
Unfortunately, being under a spouse’s medical insurance doesn’t include you in the FMLA’s plan for any paid maternity leave, which is what an employee of an FMLA-qualified business would be. So the likelihood of a booth renter or independent contractor receiving any help while away from her job is very low. But there are some disability options that will work.
Some states have disability insurance programs for the self-employed, which may provide you with some alternative options. This will be similar to buying temporary insurance programs, such as Aflac (www.aflac.com), in which case you usually need to sign up for the plan before you are pregnant, and sometimes you need to have been in the program at least six months or more before they will cover any claims.
However, these short-term coverages can sometimes carry expensive premiums.
TAKING THE TIME
Once you know your expected due date, you should start planning for how you will keep your clients covered during the time you will be away from work. Obviously, you aren’t the first nail tech wanting to take a maternity leave, so we suggest you reach out to fellow techs or hairstylists for advice. Professional beauty web networks can be helpful for advice from other female salon workers who have gone through maternity leaves themselves.
If you are a booth renter or independent contractor, let the salon owner know as soon as possible when you are planning to take off, and discuss with him or her if there is an option for you to return within a certain time period if you desire to do so.
The owners are under no obligation to re-lease to you, but if the business relationship has been a good one, the owner might be open to negotiating. Grace Ann Horstman of Grace Anne’s Nail Shoppe in Brodheadsville, Pa., enlisted the help of a tech right out of school to help mentor and take over her clients while she was out. This can be a great way to help a young newbie tech learn the ropes, while adding a personal touch to your clients as you introduce her to them.
Another way to cover your regulars is to recommend them to another nail tech you respect. April Franks of Digits Professional Nailcare in Rockford, Ill., describes how she managed the leave. “As a self-employed salon owner, I intended to take six weeks off, but instead only took four,” she says. “I adjusted my schedule before, so that after I had the baby I would work just two-and-a-half (very full) days. My clients only had to see someone else once or twice while I was out, and luckily my salon had other techs still building a clientele so they had time to take some of my regulars.”
Franks says she only lost two clients because of her new schedule, and her maternity leave went very smoothly.
BABY BONDING AND BACK TO WORK
The most important thing to remember is that your approaching time with your newborn is a special moment to bond with your child and not stress out about work. Allow yourself the time you need to welcome your child happily into this life. And when you are ready, you can get back to the salon (probably with a new whole-hearted motivation to earn money).
Good relationships and strong networking skills are invaluable tools during maternity leave, and with a little resourcefulness and knowing your obligations and rights, you’ll make it back to the manicuring table with your full book eager to hear your stories of new motherhood.
A good resource to have throughout your nail career is the advice and opinions of other nail techs across the world. And with social networking exploding like crazy, there’s no reason not to familiarize yourself with the popular nail tech forums out there.
Here’s a quick list of some you can check out:
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