All companies can custom-design maternity leave benefits as a tactic to compete with larger firms in attracting and retaining talent while also creating a great company culture.
Under FMLA, employers with 50 or more employees must provide new and adoptive moms up to 12 weeks to care for themselves and their infant. (Also, check your state laws on maternity leave.)
The law only requires unpaid leave, but a growing number of employers are choosing to offer some form of paid parental leave as part of a more attractive benefits package.
While fully paid leave may not be in the budget for small businesses, there are other options to create policies that help expectant and new moms and new dads feel valued and more likely to be loyal long term.
Employers with more than 15 but less than 50 employees aren’t required to guarantee maternity leave under FMLA, but still have to abide by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Under the Act, a worker can’t be discriminated against based on pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions. For example, accommodations made for a disabled employee, like being allowed to work from home, must also be provided to a pregnant employee.
Also beware of your own precedent. If you allow one mom work flexibility, you have to allow other expectant or new mothers the same concessions or risk being sued for discrimination.
A good fit
The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) studied trends in maternity leave between 2005 and 2016. The number of firms offering some form of replacement pay during maternity leave rose from 46% to 58%.
Not being bound by FMLA means small businesses can custom-design maternity leave programs that are a good fit for the company and its staff.
For example, an employer might offer two weeks of paid leave, followed by 10 weeks of unpaid leave and the promise that the job will be waiting for her when she returns.
To help financially, you might consider allowing the employee to save vacation days to use during maternity leave.
Another option is to offer short-term disability plans through the benefit menu so the health insurance would replace some percentage of an employee’s full-time salary.
As an alternative to giving paid leave, the SHRM study found businesses with less than 99 employees showed they value their talent by finding ways to be more flexible, such as part-time return to work, flex time and work-from-home arrangements.