How to handle maternity and paternity leave

“Competitive advantage” may not be the first words that come to mind when you think about employees requesting parental leave.

For young professionals, the option to enjoy time with their new additions can be a very attractive perk. This being more attractive than health insurance, pensions, and the retirement packages large companies can offer.

If attracting top talent and nurturing employee loyalty are important to you, read on. This article will help you manage parental leave with minimal disruption to your small business.

First, seek legal advice

The law differs country to country and state to state. Consult with a lawyer to know your legal obligations when it comes to parental leave. With the law as your starting point, you can then start to develop policies that are in alignment with your company’s values.

A family-friendly business might offer a period of paid leave with the option to add on unpaid time or banked holidays. Some small businesses offer flexible work arrangements, allowing employees to return to their jobs on a gradual part-time basis, with reduced responsibilities, on a modified work week, and/or the ability to telecommute.

As you design a parental leave policy, consider specifying eligibility requirements to qualify for benefits. Such as a minimum length of full-time employment (e.g. 12 months) and how much notice is required when requesting leave.

Start planning early

As soon as you learn a staff member is expecting a baby or planning to adopt, take action to make the transition as smooth as possible.

In order to manage your employee’s workload you’ll need to decide whether you’ll:

  • hire a temporary worker to take on her position during the leave

  • distribute the work among your other staff members, or

  • manage the extra workload with freelancers and independent contractors.

Because employees often wear a number of hats when they work for a small business, keep in mind it may be a challenge to find one person who can perform every aspect of the job.

Chances are you’ll be taking on some of your employee’s workload. So best be prepared. And the sooner you can find a replacement to start training, the better.

The importance of communication

Before your employee goes on leave, make sure you have in writing:

  • a complete and up to date job description for the role they perform

  • a list of daily and weekly procedures for their position

  • any additional notes that will help a temporary replacement perform the job.

A breakdown of all your employee’s duties is essential for anyone who steps in to help – and absolutely invaluable should the expectant mom or dad decide not to return to work.

Final thoughts

The solution for effectively managing a maternity or paternity leave is three-fold: consult, plan, and communicate.

By following the recommendations in this article you’ll ensure your employees’ rights are upheld and your business can continue to thrive when a parental leave is required.

As a final tip, while an employee isn’t required to communicate with the office while on leave, you can ask that they offer the courtesy of letting you know as soon as possible if plans change.

Although it may be an employee’s full intention to return to work, circumstances can easily change once a baby arrives.