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Maternity leave is confusing. Meet the chat-bot that can help.


Nira Datta
Matly is a free chat-bot that helps parents-to-be figure out California maternity leave. Visit Logo Design: Battle for Kettle.

“That’s a tough one to sort out. It can get complicated,” my OBGYN responded, as she pulled me up from the hospital bed.

I was 3 weeks pregnant, confused and wondering who to ask next.

My question was straightforward: How does maternity leave work in California? Turned out it wasn’t that simple (even my OBGYN thought so).

Like many women in the US, I worked for an employer who didn’t offer parental leave. So I had to figure out how I qualified through the state.

But most sources were full of jargon. The information often contradicted the circular emails from my HR. Eventually I figured out how to qualify and apply. But the experience was frustrating and complicated.

And I’m not alone. A large number of Californians share the same level of confusion when it comes to mat leave.

I’ve decided to help change that. I’ve created Matly — a chatbot that talks to Californians about maternity leave in a way that’s simpler to understand.

I wanted to mimic the way parents-to-be seek information on discussion forums, at the OB clinic, and anecdotally: through conversation. The chatbot interface simulates an interactive, chat-like experience.

Matly personalizes answers based on your unique situation. For instance, the length of your maternity leave depends on what type of leave you qualify for.

We’re also getting tired of mobile apps. And an increasing number of Californians rely solely on their smartphones to access the Internet. This chatbot only requires a browser, no matter the device. It’s easier for people to use, and less costly to create.

Conversations that make you feel heard are the most rewarding. So I trained Matly to provide tailored responses based on what the user tells it.

To choose common questions, I researched the most popular Google keywords related to maternity leave. I talked to others who were pregnant or planning. I also kept an eye on the most pressing questions moms-to-be were posting on maternity leave social media discussion forums.

After the first beta launch, I’m now testing Matly out in the wild. Seeing how people interact with Matly will make it even better. It can capture the variety of ways a person asks a question. I can then program these questions into Matly, so it knows to look out for those questions.

Offering maternity leave in plain language is necessary. Otherwise, it denies access to knowledge (at best) and basic rights (at worst).

My hope is Matly can provide some clarity during a joyous, but overwhelming time. To start, I’m reaching out to local labor and delivery clinics, so parents-to-be can start using it. The more people who test it out, the more it’ll learn and get better.

I also want to partner with relevant state disability agencies. We can work together to improve the application process for both staff and users.

So try it out and let’s build this together. We can order food or book a cab without having to think too hard. Let’s make it just as easy to figure out maternity leave too.

Matly uses internal logic to answer common questions like what type of maternity leave you qualify for. Or how much you’ll get paid. It’s able to answer more generic questions about maternity leave too.

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