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Laws and Best Practices for Paid Maternity and Paternity Leave

01/17/2019

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Determining the best maternity or paternity leave policy has become an increasingly important issue for business leaders and human resource departments. According to a 2018 benefits survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 35% of its members said they offer paid family leave. That is an increase from 2016 when 26% of its members said they offered paid family leave.

The biggest challenge today’s leaders face is keeping up with the perceptions and expectations set by other companies and countries. Employees hear about the best maternity and paternity leave policies and expect your company to provide similar benefits. So, what do you do? That’s the question we want to address.

Whether you’re looking to identify the legal requirements for your specific state or wanting to provide benefits to help you hire and retain the best employees, we can help by outlining some of the laws and best practices for maternity and paternity leave.

The Legal Requirements for Maternity and Paternity Leave

Currently, there is no federal policy for paid leave. However, there have been proposals at the national level. More importantly, employees believe paid leave is an important priority when it comes to overall job satisfaction. As a result, more than one in three U.S. employers offers paid maternity leave beyond the amount required by law.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does require employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period to care for a newborn, adopted, or foster children. The law applies to private employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. States can set standards that are more expansive than the federal law, and many states have chosen to do so. For example, the Tennessee Maternity Leave Act requires some employers to provide unpaid time off to employees, allowing them to take up to four months of leave.

To learn more about the specific laws you’re required to meet, here’s a state-by-state guide to parental leave programs

Trends and Best Practices for Paid Maternity and Paternity Leave

Because employees have greater expectations about HR benefits (and greater flexibility for finding another job), offering the minimum parental leave policy required by law isn’t enough. Here are a few best practices and trends to create a paid maternity and paternity leave policy your employees will appreciate:

  • Offer paid parental leave to women and men. An increasing number of employers are instituting policies that offer paid leave to new parents, regardless of whether the parent is a mom, dad, adoptive parent, or domestic partner of a parent. The trend suggests that more companies are trying to address the evolving needs of families, in which more than just new moms value a paid break from work after a baby arrives.
  • Design a formal off-ramping plan. One of the biggest challenges of parental leave is making sure an employee’s tasks and responsibilities aren’t neglected during their time off. The best way to mitigate the inconvenience is to develop a transition plan, talking with the people who will be picking up the employee’s work or hiring temporary help if need be.
  • Make it easier for employees by offering a gradual return to work. While some parents get too little work when they return from leave, others get too much. Adopting a gradual return-to-work policy will help you avoid this issue. For example, providing all returning leave-takers with a 50% schedule that gradually builds back to full-time is a great way to make sure employees aren’t over-burdened with work while taking care of a newborn. 

Develop the Best Policy for Your Business

Let’s face it. Parental leave can be inconvenient. But, the bigger nuisance is losing valuable team members, over and over again, due to outdated policies.

If you’re looking to determine the best parental leave policy for your business, we can help. Our team of professionals at LBMC Employment Partners is available to answer any questions you might have regarding employee benefits best practices, so contact us today to learn more!