FMLA Vs. Maternity Leave: The Best Practices for Retention
Gain Higher Employee Engagement with Paid Family Leave
Deciding between work and family should never be a concern an employee is required to make. When our clients understand those values and implement programs to create a better work/life balance, we see time and time again higher employee engagement and retention.
Family Medical Leave Act
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) enacted in 1993 eases the decision making of employees working for companies with 50 or more employees. The Act allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of job protected unpaid leave in a 12-month period to care for family members, self, newborn babies and/or children placed in a loving home by adoption or foster care. FMLA helps abate the concern of whether an employee would have a position waiting for them when they return and allows employees to focus on family and not the security of a position.
Over twenty years later, FMLA is still serving families where job-protected, unpaid leave is a magnificent benefit. Since we currently live in a world where most households cannot meet the increasing financial demands with less than two incomes, it is essential to review what employers can do to support families and maintain equality between men and women within the workforce. Many employers offer Short-Term Disability (STD) to cover 12 weeks of medical leave and most STD’s pay at least 60% of an employee's income while on medical leave. This is a viable option for eligible employees. This does not eliminate the one significant remaining question, "what happens to employees where STD is not an option?" STD only covers the person who is unable to perform their job attributable to a medical malady, not those who have to care for someone with a medical condition.
Paid Family Leave
Our world is continuing to change every day, the employee leave options should evolve as well. From same-sex marriages to transgender equality, it is necessary to update HR policies to reflect the current times and allow everyone to benefit. Currently, if an employer does not offer paid family leave, a same sex couple who may have used a surrogate for the birth of their child, neither parent would have the benefit of paid time off to bond with the baby or recover from those endless nights of what it means to raise a baby. As the federal government demands that employers review equality, we encourage employers to review the equality within their paid family leave structure as well. In order to ensure all parents can take part in becoming acquainted with the newest family member, companies should review their paid leave policies. Currently, in many cases, the individual who would receive some form of a monetary benefit would be the individual giving birth or anyone who was able to accrue enough vacation to take some time off.
State Policies on Paid Family Leave
Many states are reviewing policies that will offer paid family leave to employees. California remains the state with an innovative Employee Benefits Plan and the first state to offer paid family leave. Currently, the District of Columbia is reviewing paid leave to be enacted by all employers within D.C. If approved, the act will offer paid leave for employees similar to unemployment. The District of Columbia employers shall be taxed to fund this leave and enable employees to receive some form of payment for family leave.
Benefits of Paid Leave
As a consultant, I have had the opportunity to work with clients who did not offer paid leave and worked with companies that offered up to six weeks of paid maternity/paternity leave. In the later, there is a well-defined edge over most of their competitors as it relates to recruiting and retention. As more millennials enter the workforce, they are ensuring their voices are heard and many have started or will begin to start families in the near future. One of their key benefit concerns is whether both parents will be able to take the time to bond with the newest member of the family. Take a look at what the top organizations offer.
Making it Work for Your Organization
We understand that some organizations cannot afford to pay six weeks of paid leave. However, all organizations can afford to pay for a portion of the leave it costs to replace ONE employee. Starting with a minor form of leave will mean more to your employees than nothing. Most employers offer at least three days for bereavement, why not offer at least three days to celebrate a child’s birth? In offering some form of paid leave, you make strides in your culture and employer brand as one that values its employees.
I think we can all agree that the best asset an organization has is its people. Gain greater loyalty and job satisfaction from your team by making life a little easier for them with these practices, whatever they might be in your organization. Beyond salary, benefits have the ability to ensure your team feels appreciated. At a time when organizations are competing for top talent and struggling to keep high performers onboard, implementing a paid family leave program is an invaluable advantage.
Eventually, the government may enact a paid family leave policy, but why should your organization wait for a mandate to make a change? Become an employer of choice and choose to implement a paid family leave policy for your organization. Make an investment in your organization’s human capital!