In February, Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo made headlines when she rescinded the company’s policy of allowing employees to work from home. Basically they were told to report to the office or they were out of a job. She did not receive a lot of favorable press over that decision.
This month, she is at it again with a new maternity/paternity policy that is extremely employee friendly. For new mothers who give birth to a child, they will receive 16 weeks of paid leave with benefits and fathers get eight weeks paid paternity leave. If an employee adopts a child or becomes a foster parent, they are eligible for eight weeks paid leave. In addition to leave, new parents receive $500 for things such as house cleaning.
When you’re a company like Yahoo, competing for talent with the likes of Google and Facebook, implementing policies like this makes sense. If you’re like Yahoo with an employee base of over 10,000 employees, it might also make sense. If not, you need to think about what your company can realistically offer.
How is Maternity Leave Treated Under the Law?
Once you reach 15 employees, pregnancy is covered under discrimination laws which require you to treat like any other disability. So, whatever your disability policy is for someone going out for surgery, or for someone who suffers an injury or has an illness, then you must allow the same leave for pregnancy.
If you have fewer than fifteen employees, then you can have a more flexible approach and make accommodations for employees based on their individual needs rather than have a blanket policy. The phrase to remember is “reasonable accommodation.” Rather than offering 16 weeks paid leave for an employee who is your accounting department, perhaps you can accommodate having that employee work from home for some period of time.
If you have 50 employees or more, then you have to comply with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which requires employers to offer 12 weeks of leave (unpaid or paid) to mothers and fathers. And, don’t forget to look at your local and state laws, which may affect smaller companies.
Retaining Working Mothers
Keeping talented women in the workplace is a benefit to any employer whether your Yahoo or a smaller company, so think about your maternity leave policy as part of your retention strategy. By creating a policy that allows flexibility and support with employees who are adding children to their families, you will significantly increase the chances that they will stay on in the long term.
How Does your Maternity Leave Policy Affect Other Employees?
A flexible, thoughtful maternity leave policy sends a positive message to your entire organization. It sends a message that you care and are doing what is possible to make this life-changing event more manageable for the new parent. This will only serve to enhance your corporate culture.
However, don’t let all that good will go to waste by not thinking about what the temporary loss of one employee will have on those that remain. If you have a two-person marketing department and one is gone on maternity leave, make accommodations so that the remaining person is not crushed under an untenable amount of work. When you’re a small organization, you have to think holistically when you’re developing your policy.
The Policy You Want to Have Versus the One You Should
As a business owner or HR manager in a small organization, who wouldn’t want to offer 16 weeks paid leave to a new parent plus extra money for house cleaning? The reality is, money is a factor in making any business decision. So, think about what your organization can afford. Whether you’re a for profit or not for profit, labor typically is your largest expense, so balance what you would like to do with what you can afford.
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