By: Debra Kabalkin on May 2nd, 2018

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Compliant & Competitive Leave Programs for Small Business

Risk Management | Benefits | Employee Relations

Throughout my time as an HR consultant, I have worked with companies of all sizes, but for the purpose of this article, I wanted to focus primarily on small business.  When talking about policies and compliance topics one of the first questions companies ask is about the different types of leave and FMLA.

To put it simply, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is job protection. Eligible employees may take up to take 12 weeks unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons if they have been employed with their company for a year, the company has 50 employees (in a 75-mile radius).

In addition to the federally mandated FMLA, there are many states that have different provisions under FMLA.  If there is a state provision where you are located that has more robust offerings you will need to follow the provisions for the state in which your company is located.

For many organizations, pregnancy is one of the more common reasons FMLA is requested by its employees.  The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits discrimination against employees and applicants on the basis of “pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions.” Any employer that is subject to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (i.e., has 15 or more employees) must comply with the PDA.  Under the law, you are required to treat pregnant employees the same as other employees on the basis of their ability or inability to work.

Not to mention, there's a ton of data that suggests providing family leave to care for a newborn makes a positive impact on your company’s turnover and morale!

So, How Does a Small Business Remain Compliant and Competitive with Employee Leave?

You may want to consider conducting an employee survey to get feedback from employees about the current leave offerings.  Every employee has different needs when it comes to leave and listening to their opinion makes them feel valued and appreciated.

There are multiple ways to offer leave to your staff, you just need to determine the method that works best for your organization. Some leave options to consider are:

  • Create a modified FMLA policy for your company; to stand out amongst your competitors you can offer paid leave for the employee’s time off.
  • Have maternity/paternity leave parameters and work with employees to allow them the advantage of deciding what works best for them.
  • Allow new parents the opportunity to work from home during the initial weeks of new parenthood.
  • Offer part-time work or a modified schedule for the first few months after leave to care for a new child.
  • Consider changing your company’s leave policy to an unlimited PTO (paid time off) bank thus eliminating the maximum amount of time employees are entitled to.

There are a lot of options to consider, and these are just a few ideas to help get you started. Whatever you decide, apply your policy consistently to all employees.  As with other policies your leave policy should be included in your employee handbook and/or policy guide.