Developing a family-friendly maternity leave policy is necessary if you want to attract top female talent to your company. Parental leave policies vary greatly from company to company, and a favorable one is going to make you stand out. As you create your plan, think carefully about the messages you want to put out and the type of culture you want to develop in your workplace.
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 entitles workers to 12 weeks of unpaid time off after the birth or adoption of a child. The frustrating part of this for many workers, is that the leave is unpaid, and this can force new mothers back to the office sooner than they’d really like. Offering even a small amount of paid leave is key in creating a family-friendly policy. Yes, this is an additional expense, but it’s a cost that contributes to employee loyalty and happiness working for the company. It’s also probably the right thing to do.
Easing Back In
Coming back to work after maternity leave can also be a challenge for women. One way to make this better is to offer the option of working part-time for a few months. This gives new moms a bit more time to enjoy time with her baby, supports breastfeeding, and allows her to adjust to getting back into the swing of things. Maternal fetal specialist Dr Gilbert Webb says a high risk pregnancy may require a woman to take more time to recover, so keep this in mind when creating your policy. Remember, too, that even if a woman is coming back to work full-time, she may need additional breaks and a comfortable space to pump breast milk.
Flexible Working Arrangements
Once the woman comes back to work, remember that a lot of the “sick leave” she takes is not necessarily because she’s sick herself. Children who are new to day care situations tend to pick up bugs more often, and the day care’s policy often states that children must be fever-free for 24 hours before returning to the day care. This can mean that the mother is taking a lot of extra leave even after she’s returned to work. To help this inevitable situation, try to allow more flexible working arrangements. For example, you might allow your workers to telecommute when necessary or work hours outside of the traditional workday. It’s more important that your workers complete their job tasks rather than put in face time at the office.
Developing Corporate Culture
Along with the actual maternity policy, you’ll need to develop policies that guide the workers who are taking over. For example, when you double the workload of current employees, they’re bound to feel some resentment. Instead, make sure that workers have resources if things get to be too much. Consider hiring temporary workers to take over.
Try to think about your maternity leave policy as more of a “parental leave” policy. It should include fathers as well. When the men in your company are offered—and encouraged to take—the chance to take leave for a new baby, everyone feels supported. The more your policies focus on creating a family-friendly environment, the happier everyone will be.
As you develop your corporate maternity leave policy, take the time to check in with your workers and find out what they want from a policy. When you do this, you’re bound to be satisfied with the results.