Small Businesses & Parental Leave

Without a strong team of dedicated employees, a business of any size can suffer. If you run a small business, you undoubtedly rely on your employees and in turn try to offer them benefits and other incentives for staying with and supporting your small company. While many employees of a small business are offered health insurance and even a retirement plan, parental leave is another story. It continues to baffle business owners and employees, alike, that in a developed country like the United States, women are not guaranteed time off from work to care for their newborn after birth.

Although larger businesses are required to provide employees with 12 weeks of unpaid leave, through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), smaller businesses with less than 50 employees are not required to provide the same kind of leave. If you’re not required to provide parental (or maternity) leave, here are some reasons why you may want to consider offering it for expectant parents in your company:

Employees May Return After Leave

If you decide to provide parental leave your employees, there’s a good chance that a majority of the employees will return to work after leave. By providing parental leave, giving either men or women an option to take time off after the birth or adoption of a child, you are taking action and showing your employees that you care about them and their families. In turn, you are more likely to have employees that value you as an employer and express mutual respect.

Creating a Parental Leave Policy

Whether you want to include both women and men is up to you, but when you create your parental leave policy it should be clear and you should be consistent with no exceptions and included in all employee manuals and in terms of employment. (Yes, even small businesses with a small amount of employees should have employee manuals and terms of employment.) When creating your policy, consider the FMLA:

  • Employees must be employed with your company for at least 12 months and works a regular work week (or works a minimum of hours per week).
  • The time of leave must be continuous, not broken up over a period of time (such as 6 to 12 weeks).

If you can’t offer paid leave or can’t afford to be without your employee for 12 weeks, consider alternatives such as working from home or allowing your employee to bring the child to work (if it’s safe and suitable).

Prepare Your Business

Just as you would with another lengthy absence in your company, you should have a plan for conducting business without an integral employee. Depending on the type of business you run, you have a few options that may work such as temporarily offering up or delegating tasks to existing employees, hire out your work to freelancers, or hire a temporary employee during the time of your employee’s absence.

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