How to Start a Parental Leave Program at Your Company

Although parental leave isn’t mandated, it might be the perk that can help your business attract and retain workers.

Only 18 percent of U.S. organizations offer paid maternity leave, and even fewer—only 12 percent—provide paid paternity leave. “The U.S. is the only industrialized country not to guarantee paid parental leave aside from California, which requires employers to provide six weeks’ partial-pay maternity leave,” says Whitley Lane, director of human resources at Tactical Cleaning Co*. Here’s what you need to know before launching a parental leave program.

But First, Why?
Lane realized the importance of parental leave on a new level last year after taking off 12 weeks after the birth of her first child. “I shut off all communication with the work world and bonded with my baby,” she says. “Every new parent should have this opportunity.” Before you go all-in, Lane recommends determining what employees value most. Will adding parental leave keep them?

Do the Dollars Make Sense?
Consider if six to 18 weeks paid parental leave is cost-effective for your organization. “I would challenge every employer to look at their top talent and assess the cost of losing them to a competitor offering a similar program,” Lane says.

What Does the Law Say?
Remember to consider federal, state and local laws. Tailor the program around your FMLA policy to ensure fair and equitable benefits. “Also, offer parental leave benefits to men and women to avoid violating federal sex discrimination laws,” Lane says.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include Whitley Lane's current employer.

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