Employee Engagement, Featured

7 Ways to Take Full Maternity and Paternity Leave (and Make it OK)

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More and more employers are turning to strong family leave policies and family-friendly perks in order to recruit and retain top talent. Organizations that create successful family cultures consistently rank among Glassdoor Best Places to Work—which have also been shown to have higher than average financial performance. Best Places to Work winners beat the return on the S&P 500 by as much as 122% over a five year period.

A generous leave policy brings the most benefit to families when parents take the full leave—and that needs to be backed up by your culture. Even though eligible U.S. workers are entitled to 12 weeks unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, both mothers and fathers typically take less. In the last two years, mothers took a median of 11 weeks leave following the birth or adoption of a child, while fathers took a median of one week, despite the 12 weeks of leave available to them. Given the importance of early life bonding time between child and parent, parents should not have to fear that they’ll set their careers back by taking time out for family.

In our new eBook, Glassdoor’s Guide to Parental and Family Leave, we share these 7 tips for building a family friendly culture, ensuring that your policies and perks get used in a way that most benefits families and your organization.

1. Set the example

Leadership role models are just as important for family life as professional life. When leaders take advantage of company leave policies, they reinforce the stated values of the company, and give permission for employees take leave as well. They also demonstrate trust in their employees as they delegate responsibilities to cover their absences.

Leaders can also demonstrate family commitment by placing family photographs at their desks, mentioning family events and milestones, and using stories from family life to inspire new processes or products.

2. Educate employees

Employees may not be aware of your company’s family leave policies if they were not considering childbearing or eldercare at the time they joined. If you make any adjustment to your policies, be sure to support it with announcements in all hands meetings. Also include information about family leave in your annual benefits enrollment package, and provide managers with information to share with their teams.

Because pregnancy is a sensitive topic that employees may not want to announce, even to HR, until they are sure all is well, make it easy for employees to find information on your intranet and employee handbook. And of course, include information on leave policies and family benefits in your onboarding training and handouts.

3. Train managers

Managers may not be aware of the impact that adding a child or caring for an elder may have on an employee’s life. In order to help managers become more sensitive to the needs of their direct reports, provide training and talking points related to family leave. Managers will need to help employees who take leave adjust their goals and schedules, as well as delegate coverage during absence periods. In addition, managers will need to ensure that performance and bonus incentives are evaluated outside of parental requirements and leave.

4. Plan coverage

Leave coverage plans for some employees will require hiring a contractor, while responsibilities for others can be delegated internally. Work with managers to create a structured process in which employees feel confident their job will be covered and will be there for them upon their return. Decide on how much (if any) communication during leave will be necessary to create a smooth flow of work.

5. Ease the transition back from leave

Understand that family leave requires a different intellectual skillset than is required at work, and is often physically challenging. New parents have to adjust to a new schedule while suffering from lack of sleep. If possible, give returning new mothers time to ramp back up to full productivity through part-time hours, flextime, or working from home. Also be sensitive to new mothers’ lactation needs and child care considerations for business travel.

6. Set boundaries

The always-on culture at work can add to the stress of parenting if clear boundaries are not set. Encourage managers and employees to set time boundaries for after-hours requests, and discuss expectations for response times.

7. Support and celebrate parenthood

Employers can support working parents by offering daycare assistance, emergency backup care, lactation rooms, and flextime to handle a child’s appointments. They can also support parenthood by offering internal social programs such as a parent-buddy system or employee resource groups for new mothers and fathers. First-time parents will appreciate having role models and the opportunity to share daily concerns with their on-site peers.

Consider offering family-friendly employee events to celebrate parents. Also celebrate Bring Your Kids to Work Day and Working Parents Day.

To find out more on how to update your leave policy in a way that works for your company, download our eBook, Glassdoor’s Guide to Parental and Family Leave today!

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