To celebrate Mother’s Day, we are taking a look at maternity leave and how to make the most of it as a business owner. It’s a time to celebrate, but it is also a time to jump into action with a plan to adjust business operations during the employee’s absence.
By putting the right structure, benefits, and rules in place, a company can run smoothly during this time of adjustment, and transition back easily when it is time to welcome the new mom back into her role.
The Laws on Maternity Leave
Companies employing 50 or more employees, are required, by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), to provide unpaid maternity leave of up to 12 weeks.
If there are less than 50 employees, business owners are not governed by these federal laws, but with 15 or more employees, they will have to adhere to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). A business with less than 15 employees, will want a plan in place that benefits all parties involved.
Other Options for Employees
Even if the FMLA doesn’t apply, it’s still worthwhile offering maternity leave benefits to employees. A survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor found that after taking FMLA leave, 90% of workers return to their employment.
Business owners may want to consider offering additional benefits. For example, an opportunity for employees to work from home, returning part-time at first, or offering a flexible schedule that works with their new found schedule and responsibilities.
Preparing Other Employees for a Colleague’s Leave
Being without a fellow employee for a few months can seem daunting for staff members, but there are a number of ways to make sure business operations continue as expected.
- Allow other high-performing employees the opportunity to step up. Be sure to plan the transition before the maternity leave starts so there’s a good transition period.
- Create a return transition plan to remind everyone the change is temporary—this will keep things organized and drama at bay.
- Reward/compensate employees who take on more responsibilities, and let them know of any incentives ahead of time.
Cross training is valuable in any company, and is especially useful at times when someone is on extended leave. Employees don’t need to be able to do everything, but it’s a good idea to encourage different skill sets among them.
Finally, if all else fails, there are independent contractors/virtual assistants to fall back on, who can come into the role quickly and efficiently if needed. They are accustomed to learning the ropes in a short period of time, and if good working relationships are created, this may provide seamless cover when needed.
What maternity policies do you have in place at your company? Do these help you retain staff and your business structure when someone’s on maternity leave? Share your comments below!
sba.gov; 2013; Caron Beesley; https://www.sba.gov/blogs/maternity-leave-benefits-what-are-your-small-business-obligations-and-options