Supporting working parents can earn employers an A+ from employees and job seekers alike.
It’s back-to-school season, and it’s a hectic time for your employees with children. Their schedules are filled with pick-ups and drop-offs, soccer games, dance lessons, and choral concerts; and they may be wondering what will happen if they have to take time off for parental responsibilities or family emergencies. There’s never been a better time to review your parental leave policies and let employees know how you are there to support them.
Most businesses offer minimal leave for mothers and even less for dads. U.S. law doesn’t require paid parental leave. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), covered, eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave during any 12-month period for family situations such as the birth of a child or the serious illness of a family member. However, this can be insufficient for workers living paycheck-to-paycheck; and it doesn’t help when there is a snow day or a child is sent home from school with a stomach bug or the flu.
Some employers have discovered that offering both paid and unpaid parental leave for moms and dads has resulted in reduced turnover, greater engagement, and stronger cultures where workers feel valued holistically.
While you need to ensure that your employees understand the law, you also may want to consider some innovative benefits that can attract and keep working parents:
- Arrange near-site or offer on-site daycare or after-school care for employees’ children. This doesn’t have to be free; but it should be convenient.
- Offer parental support groups where working moms and dads can share resources, rides, babysitters, etc.
- Offer the ability to use vacation or sick days for family purposes. Let parents (and other employees) work at home when possible.
- Offer special 9-to-3 shifts for working moms and dads.
- Arrange for parents to be able to bring children to work when there are emergencies such as snowstorms or tornadoes.
Increasingly, lawmakers are looking for ways to support working parents. Earlier this year, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which would create a comprehensive national program to help meet the needs of new mothers and fathers and people with serious personal or family health issues. This would be accomplished through a shared fund designed to make paid leave affordable for employers of all sizes, their workers, and families. While the prospects for this particular bill are dim, there is likely to be more bipartisan effort on this issue as, according to a recent poll, 88% of Democrats and 60% of Republicans support paid family leave.