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Post-Pandemic Family Leave Considerations

Post-Pandemic Family Leave Considerations

Companies that update their post-pandemic family leave policies will reap bottom line benefits

To find and keep the best talent post-pandemic, companies are constantly trying to differentiate themselves. One new benefit that progressive companies in the United States have been rolling out is generous parental leave. Paid parental leave and other policies that support employees and their families are considered a competitive edge for employers that are trying to recruit top talent and increase employee engagement.

The need for more inclusive parental leave policies has stemmed from the old-fashioned policies that are, unfortunately, typical of many employers in America. The most common issue with these policies is that they only offer paid leave for “primary caregivers” — if they offer leave at all. These policies assume that families only have one primary caregiver and that the spouse or partner contributes little to these activities.  In many families, this is very untrue. 

The majority of families in the United States are non-traditional: there may have been divorce in the family; many families have single-breadwinners; not a few families are led by LGBTQx heads of households, and more.

The worst of the old-fashioned policies are not even gender neutral. Some state that the birth mother is assumed to be the primary caregiver. The leave benefits, then, only extended to birth mothers or primary caregivers in cases of adoption and surrogacy. Parental leave needs to be equally available to everyone – all gender categories and all types of caregivers.

Laws such as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 have stepped in to allow employees to take unpaid leave in the event the employer is unwilling to extend a leave. 

However, one catch in the post-pandemic, remote/hybrid work world is thatThe employee must also work at a worksite in the United States, or a U.S. territory, at which the employer has at least fifty employees within seventy-five miles.

Nevertheless, only a handful of states and municipalities offer paid, or partially paid, family or medical leave for employees. Companies that want to retain valuable employees, though, should not need to wait for legislation to preserve their investment in staff.

There are a couple of important tips for companies that want to improve their parental leave practices: 

  1. Research the companies that are winning Best Employer awards. The companies typically have higher rates of job applicants than other companies. They also have greater rates of employee retention. Take the parts from their family leave policies that improve upon your own company's. Gradually build upon the new family leave foundation to make it inclusive and nuanced.
  2. If you’re uncomfortable with a full policy overhaul, make incremental changes. This shows that you’re committed to the change and supporting all of your employees equally. You’ll be able to make small iterations to improve the policy over time and perfect it to meet the needs of your organization.
  3. Ask for input. Seek feedback from employees who have been marginalized by the old parental leave policy. This could be male employees or LGBTQ employees. These employees can bring your attention to issues that you might not have considered. Getting their input can help make the policy more inclusive and relevant to your workforce.

Paid parental leave that is inclusive of all caregivers can make a big impact on recruitment and retention efforts during the post-pandemic labor shortage. Recruitment, in particular, can be one of the greatest expenses companies incur.

However, when a company is generous and inclusive with its parental leave practices, it sends a strong message to employees. It communicates to employees that they are valued and that the company is committed to them and to providing staff a high quality environment in which to work. Staff want to stay with a company like that long-term. It makes perfect cents.