Companies are looking for ways to get ahead of their competition when it comes to attracting the cream of the crop and maintaining their star talent. One way to do that and show you respect all employees and their families is by offering adoption benefits.
Creating a more adoption-friendly workplace says to employees who desire to grow their families in a non-traditional way that you support them 100%. Plus, it solidifies your organization’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and gives you a more competitive benefits package.
What should you offer in terms of adoption leave?
The first thing you must know is FMLA requires public and private companies with 50 or more employees to provide 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave. For adoptive parents, however, that doesn’t start until the adoption is legally finalized.
According to American Adopters, a licensed, non-profit adoption agency, providing leave at this point doesn’t cover the time new adoptive parents spend traveling, receiving placement of their child, and the critical bonding time. That’s because legal finalization of adoptions often happens a few months after the child is placed in their home.
Stepping up and offering paid leave so adoptive parents can travel and bond with their new child during the first few months shows you value their family as much as a biological birth family.
Adoption policy pieces
It’s your policy, so it can include what you feel is necessary for an adoption. But here are some basic things that you may want to consider including:
- Reimbursement for some or all adoption costs
- Paid leave for travel tied to the adoption
- Post placement parental leave, and
- Phased leave to help parents and children adjust to a work schedule.
The first thing you’ll want to do is create an adoption assistance program. This is a written document that establishes a plan for your employees. It’s not legally required, but it’s extremely helpful.
Things you’ll need to address in the program are:
- Will it only be for employees who finalize adoptions or for anyone even if the adoption is unsuccessful?
- The financial amount you’ll reimburse
- How much paid leave you’ll offer?
- Who’s eligible?
Financial assistance and reimbursements
Most programs help with “reasonable and necessary expenses directly related to the adoption of a child,” according to American Adoptions. It’s up to your organization to decide if you’re going to reimburse for everything or a percentage of expenses incurred, or if you are going to cap amounts.
Some typical expenses include:
- agency costs
- application fees
- attorney fees
- court costs
- home study costs
- medical expenses for the child not covered by insurance
- medical expenses for the birth mother
- transportation and lodging
- immigration, naturalization and immunization fees, and
- post-adoption services/counseling.
The average per adoption reimbursement is around $9,300. If you’re thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot of money,” know that the percentage of employees that will take advantage of adoption benefits is low. But for those that do, they’ll be loyal, happy employees.
And let’s face it, people talk. Remember the Faberge Organics Shampoo commercials from the 80s: “They’ll tell two friends, and so on and so on …” That’s exactly what’ll happen.
Another issue to consider is when you’ll reimburse employees for costs incurred. Keep in mind that most expenses are incurred before the adoption is finalized. Offering post-adoption reimbursement isn’t much help. One idea is to offer tiered reimbursement.
Adoptive parents’ leave policies
What kind of leave policy will you offer adoptive parents? Not sure? Here are some questions to help you determine what your policy will look like:
- How and when will employees be required to request leave? Remember, adoptions often happen with little to no notice. Requiring a month’s advance notice or even a few weeks might be unrealistic.
- Will you stick with the FMLA leave or will you offer additional unpaid leave time?
- How much paid (or partially paid) leave will you offer?
- Will you require employees who are on leave longer than 12-weeks to meet with HR to make arrangements for the continuation of benefits?
- How much additional time beyond FMLA leave can employees take and keep their position?
- Will adoptive parents who take extended leave be able to phase back in or work part-time?
There is more to the process than we can include here. This is meant to get the ball rolling. The best advice is to do your homework before implementing an adoption benefits/leave policy. Have someone delve into the needs of birth and adoptive parents, as well as adoptees so you can meet all their needs.
There’s a growing need and demand for adoption benefits and providing them will put you ahead of companies that don’t. And you’ll be seen as an organization that values adoptive families just as much as biological families.