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Maternity Matters: Leave Policy Creation Tips For Small Businesses

In the midst of the current debate over wages and headlines that focus on the conflicts between employers and employees, it’s easy to forget that best business relationships are symbiotic. This means that, ideally, what’s best for one is also best for the other. A good example of this can be seen in good maternity leave policies.

The Value of Maternity Leave Policies

New parents and their babies benefit from having time to bond, and those benefits are passed on to employers in the form of happier, more loyal and more productive employees. In fact, statistics show that 90% of employees return to their jobs after maternity leave, saving companies the high cost of training replacements.

Granting employees maternity leave also provides opportunities for strengthening businesses. One example of this is that it encourages cross-training. The more employees are trained in the duties of others, the less dependent upon a single person the company is, and the more valuable each employee becomes. Maternity leave often also results in hiring temporary independent contractors which can increase the number of positive working relationships between the company and the local business community. That’s always good for business. For these reasons, despite the high cost, many companies with fewer than 50 employees are opting to create their own maternity leave policies.

Federal and State Laws

There are two federal guidelines that employers must adhere to. One of them is The Pregnancy Discrimination Act. It requires employers to treat pregnant employees the same way as other workers with similar temporary limitations due to a physical condition. The other makes companies with at least 50 employees subject to the Family Medical Leave Act’s requirement to provide workers with 1,250 hours worked 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. Occasionally, due to complications, additional leave time may be required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some states have additional requirements, so it’s a good idea to research your state laws when creating your company policy.

Policies and Procedures

When formulating your company’s policies and procedures surrounding maternity leave, there are some important factors to consider. One factor is ensuring that the policy is fair and applies equally to all employees. One of the advantages of creating a maternity leave policy is that there is room to negotiate. For example, the more notice an employer has of the future need for maternity leave, the more time the company has to ensure that the employees’ duties will be fulfilled during their absence. Leaving this room for compromise in your maternity leave policy can come in handy if an employee undergoes a high-risk pregnancy. Maternal fetal specialist Dr Gilbert Webb says these can mean more time in recovery, which might require more time away from work.

Once the policies have been developed, the next step is to make sure that all employees are properly informed. Some good ways to do this are through personal memos, inclusion of the policy in employee handbooks, and arranging special training sessions.

Cost Cutting Options

There are ways to reduce the time and cost of maternity leave that small businesses can take advantage of. One option is purchasing a disability insurance plan that will help cover some of the expense. Also, employers can allow employees to work from home part-time. The advantages of this are that they are still available by phone or e-mail should any serious issues arise after developing a work coverage plan in advance, including training co-workers.

Good business means employers and employees working together to develop policies and procedures that benefit and sustain all important relationships, both business and family.

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