In recent years, American companies have begun developing policies that show both current and future employees that they do not view company success and family success as mutually exclusive. Here are a few ways your company can do the same:
1. Paid parental leave
Did you know that the United States is the only high-income country that has no government-provided paid parental leave? In fact, only 12 percent of working American women have access to paid maternity leave.
Until the US catches up to its contemporaries, this leaves individual companies with the decision to offer their employees anything other than the 12 weeks of job-protected, yet unpaid leave. Though required by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), it is often not used by many Americans in the workforce because they cannot afford to lose out on the income. But some American companies have learned that paid parental leave is a worthwhile expense in the long run, and it’s ultimately the best way to support an employee in an unplanned pregnancy.
Etsy implemented a paid parental leave policy in 2016, supporting their decision with this powerful statement: “As a business, Etsy needs people who are clear on our priorities, motivated, and focused on achieving our long-term goals and we know that being a parent is not mutually exclusive to being this type of employee” (emphasis added). Even partial-paid parental leave can boost morale and fidelity for current employees and improve recruitment for new employees.
2. Sponsored disability insurance
If paid parental leave is still a little out of reach for your business, short-term or long-term disability insurance can help you support employees in both planned and unplanned pregnancies in the meantime.
This specific type of insurance replaces a percentage of the employee’s income while they are out of the office and helps employers manage the time they lose while those employees are unable to work. In addition, it’s more difficult and more expensive to obtain on its own, so it can add value to your company’s benefits package and boost recruitment.
3. Clear communication between employer and employees
You should always be up front about your company’s leave policies, no matter what they are — even as early as the recruitment/interview process. Likewise, foster a work environment where employees will feel comfortable communicating with their supervisors to give the supervisor adequate time to plan for their absence.
4. Cross training
Supervisors can simultaneously prepare the workplace for the absence of the mother and save money company-wide by training coworkers to temporarily take on her duties. This is the policy implemented by The Little Gym International chain in Arizona in order to provide six paid and six unpaid weeks of parental leave after a birth or adoption. This saves their company the cost of hiring temporary employees and also provides current employees with the opportunity to support their coworkers.
5. Adjusted schedules for mothers returning to work
Giving mothers more flexibility upon returning to work can reduce the pressure of such an inherently stressful transition and even result in mothers returning to work sooner. Companies such as Spotify, Amazon, and Facebook have already implemented reduced or flexible schedules and telecommuting options for mothers returning to work after giving birth.
6. “Mommy friendly” worksites
Offering special areas for lactation and on-site daycare (or daycare assistance) can lessen the burden on mothers returning to work after having a child. This also shows current and future employees that your company does not stigmatize female employees who are opting to parent but still want or need to work.
7. Support of family as a whole
Companies can also include spouses and/or children in company events, supporting employees by acknowledging the role of family in the success of the company. If your company cares about the future of our society, fostering a family-friendly environment is a big step in a positive direction.
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